Episode #44 Talking with Canadian Strength Coach Shara Vigeant

Shara Vigeant is one of the most prominent, successful, strength and conditioning coaches in Canada.  She has spent the last eight years traveling the world, seeking out the best coaches, learning, evolving, teaching and developing top athletes.  She has studied with guys like Jonathan Chaimberg, Loren Landow, Joel Jamieson and many others.  Her facility in Edmonton, Alberta Canada is the premiere place for fighters to train and continues to pump out athletes that are strong, powerful and ready to fight.


In this interview, we discuss:

  • Assessing an Athletes needs
  • Pillars of Shara’s Workouts
  • How often a fighter should train each week
  • Communicating with other coaches
  • Recovery tactics
  • Mistakes that people are making
  • Continuing to evolve, change and improve!
  • and more!

Connect with Coach Vigeant here:

SVPT Fitness





Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Shara Vigeant

Corey Beasley [00:00:01]: Hey guys, is Corey Beasley with fight camp conditioning. I’m on the phone here with Shara Vigeant. Shara, how are you?

Shara Vigeant [00:00:05]:I’m doing well. How are you doing?

Corey Beasley [00:00:09]: I’m doing good. Thanks so much for calling in. I appreciate your time.

Shara Vigeant [00:00:14]:I’m honored to be here. I’m a big fan of the website.

Corey Beasley [00:00:18]: Well, I appreciate it. So Shara, for everybody that’s listening. Give everybody a little two sense of who we are and what you do?

Shara Vigeant [00:00:25]:Well, I own a gym in Edmonton, Alberta. SVPT fitness and athletics and I am a strength and conditioning coach for predominantly MMA and a little bit of boxing. And then rugby and some other sports, lots of hockey up here as well. But my focus personally is MMA.

Corey Beasley [00:00:42]: How long have you been coaching for?

Shara Vigeant [00:00:50]:I started being a personal trainer back in 2004. I was a bodybuilder turn personal trainer and I got involved in MMA in about 2008. It wasn’t a planned thing. I didn’t seek it out. It was kind of thrown in my lap. I was renting some space from a strength and conditioning coach at a gym and he didn’t want to do it anymore. And he asked me, if I would train one of his fighters and I was like, Oh, I don’t about this. And then I started training him anyways and I fell in love with it and kind of Travis Galbraith was my first fighter and I’ll never forget him. He was like my golden child. But yeah, he started winning fights and I started getting more and more fighters coming to me. It was a hard road, but I got there.

Corey Beasley [00:01:39]: As you were getting started with some of those fighters, your experience in the past was bodybuilding. What were some of the changes that you had to make starting to work with some of those MMA athletes?

Shara Vigeant [00:01:49]:Well, obviously MMA is a performance based sportswear. Bodybuilding was aesthetics, so completely different. And back in 2008 there was not a lot of information out there about how to train fighters for with strength and conditioning. It was nothing, it was a lot of old school mentality where you kill them until they’re dead. And I had to start digging and try to figure it out. First of all, I was the only female coach in the city doing MMA strength and conditioning, let alone the only coach in the city doing strength and conditioning for MMA at a very young sport. So I had a lot of doors slammed in my face and I there was just no education out there, especially for a female coach in a male dominated sport. So I tried to do as much education as I could. I found JC Santana was the first course I ever did. Anytime there was ever a seminar by strength and conditioning coach, anything I was there. I remember doing a seminar so many years ago, Shawn Tompkins, wherever there was education about MMA strength. And conditioning. I sought it out and whenever there was a new article or new blog or anything, I just jumped on it because I knew that there was had to be more to trading these fighters then than what I was learning and coming from a bodybuilding standpoint, I mean I was versed in great nutrition and, and discipline and whatnot, but not performance. Like it was a complete three 360 to learn how to train these guys who are also like, they have to learn so many different disciplines. So putting it all together, that was a big struggle.

Corey Beasley [00:03:22]: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s something that a lot of people go through because the bodybuilding world has pretty much dominated the fitness marketplace for damn 30, 40 years. I mean, Arnold Schwarzenegger kind of just overwhelmed the world and that’s kind of been the most dominant voice in that world for a long time. And the performance stuff is very different. And then you had the power lifting world you have the strong man guys, you have the body builders, you have all these different aspects that are out there. And I think it becomes confusing to say the least for a lot of people as they’re trying to, like you said figuring out what they’re going to need to do to get better as well as coordinate with a lot of that skill training that they’re having to do.

Shara Vigeant [00:04:07]:Exactly. And the coordination with the skill training as is to this date. Still a struggle. I know I just come from just did a presentation at the NSEA combat sports clinic in Denver, Colorado Springs. And the underlying theme there amongst coaches was communication amongst coaches is still a struggle and it’s still hard to program proper strength and conditioning when the coaches aren’t on all the same page. So that is still a struggle.

Corey Beasley [00:04:37]: Especially when a lot of these guys are going from place to place, bouncing around from gym to gym. And I mean every coach wants to make sure that they’re prepared, but they also might be doing too much or too little or whatever it might be.

Shara Vigeant [00:04:52]: And it’s tough. We all have a role for that fighter, we all have roles and we all want our roles to be important and a priority. But by when there’s no communication, it can make it really hard. So we really try to communicate here and try to make sure that we’re putting our fighter first, because communication is not about us and our egos. It’s about the fighter.

Corey Beasley [00:05:12]: So let’s say you have a new guy that are probably referred in from some of the other guys and walks through your doors first day. Where do you kind of start with that athlete?

Shara Vigeant [00:05:24]:You know what? It’s a simple conversation. I want to know about this guy. I want to make a connection. I want to know who he, where he’s coming from. It’s not just about his body and in his fight training, it’s also about his life, his lifestyle. Who does he have at home supporting him? Is he working? We know that a lot of the guys that are starting off in the regional level or in our province anyways, have to work part time. So I want to know what kind of life stressors he has. Then I’ll delve into his life history, like our spite history, what his record is, any injuries, any problems with his body. And we go through that and then I just really to make a connection with the guy. So it’s a conversation and then we’ll get them on, I’ll get him on the turf, so to speak, and then I’ll put him through some a warm-up. I don’t do a ton of the technical assessments. I just like to watch a guy move and see what’s happening in their body through the warm-up and then do basic lifts with them. And that’s going to tell me enough to train them. And then we do correctives from that, but not a ton of correctives, but I’ll know how to train the guy once I see him move and have a conversation with them. Once you do this for so many years, you just know from experience, from training, so many different types of bodies in so many different types of athletes. What these guys need simply by having a conversation with them and watching them move my warm-up in a day when they get on the turf and from the minute they walk into this gym, I’m assessing them because it’ll tell me how, right their body language, how their movement quality is not going to tell me what I need to do with this guy.

Corey Beasley [00:06:49]: So once they walk through that warm up you get a good idea of who did on where they’re at, what are bodies that are history all that type of stuff. Probably their training schedule figuring out what they’re doing. All of that type of stuff. I mean, we’re just gathering information so we can get a good idea of who these guys are. How does a typical workout flow at your place?

Shara Vigeant [00:07:17]:Well these guys will come in and like I said, from the minute they walk in, I’m assessing them, seeing how they’re moving, then I have a conversation with them and ask them what are you doing after this? Because sometimes the training schedule changes because sometimes coaches need to change their schedule and sometimes the athletes seem to change their schedule. So I’ll make sure that I know what’s coming up. I make sure I know what they did the day before and what they’re going to do the next day just to make sure. I put them on the turf. They usually foam roll, do some soft tissue work and from that, when they’re doing their soft tissue work and getting ready I’m again conversing with them, talking with them, seeing how things are going, seeing where their head is at. A lot of the times you can know where training session’s going to go based on just a conversation with a guy based on where their head is at. And then we go through our warm-up and the warm-up we do a lot of activation stuff I have learned some great stuff from Loren Landow about muscle activation. And so we go through a ground up type of a warm-up where we’re activating or using mini bands. And then we go through a dynamic warm-up where we’re from the ground up and then a little bit more dynamic movement-based and then we move into a power phase where we’re doing some jumps or apply owes or med ball stuff. And then we moved to our strength component and then we end on our conditioning. And of course, all of this depends on, it’s tailored to the fighter. It’s tailored to where they are in terms of their training block, whether they’re getting ready for a fight or not. So I know that many coaches that do strength and conditioning are listening right now and are thinking, wow, is it that periodize no. And we all know that it’s not because at the end of the training camp with a lot of these guys, my paper doesn’t look even similar to what it did when it started. These guys come in with injuries or body issues, I have to adopt it on the fly. So I have my templates and systems in place right now because of all the years of all the mistakes that I’ve made and all the programs that I followed that didn’t work. But we have our template but it changes because it’s based on these guys and their injuries and body issues and stuff that come in. So I’m adopting on the fly 90% of the time with these guys. But I do have that general template where we do power, strength and conditioning, and then it’s all based on where these guys are in terms of their training.

Corey Beasley [00:09:31]: So as you’re going through that, let’s say, you’re going through the warm-up, the guy hurt his elbow the day before, fought with his girlfriend that night, see you pissed off and burnt out in the morning that you had a like an upper body day that you wanted to hit a lot of these things on the fly. Without going just completely random with the workouts. And I know you’re probably just adjusting but staying within the same pillars of your program, so to speak. Right? So what are some of those I mean as you’re going through the program, are you kind of like more taking like a higher percentage as you get closer to the fighters and more power oriented or condition?

Shara Vigeant [00:10:18]:Yeah. So if we’re getting close to the fight, then we’re moving up. I do contrast training and then we’re doing more power endurance stuff closer to the fight, but we’re still keeping heavy load in there. I like to keep these guys strong right up until the fight. And then I taper down a little bit of the volume closer to the fight, about seven days out, 10 days out. But again, it’s very individual, each guy and some guys don’t want to lift heavy 10 days out from the fight. Other guys want to crush really heavy weight, seven days out and it’s all comes down to what that guy wants. And then in terms of modifying, like even this morning I had a session and a guy was having a shoulder issue but was going to his physiotherapist after. So we just avoided the area and I said, I want to avoid the area until I can, I have a network of people that will tell me what’s going on with fighter like physiotherapists and physical therapists and they’ll tell me what’s going on so then I can modify training and not make it worse and try to make it better. So we just avoided the area and focused on other things today and then he’s going to get back to me with what the problem is. So it’s undeleting. It’s never linear. It’s linear in the bigger picture in terms of progress. But every session is an up and down.

Corey Beasley [00:11:32]: Now, you’re talking about reducing the volume. I’m sure a lot of people that are listening understand that. But for the people that do have questions about, I think that’s a very important point. How do you personally reduce volume as you’re getting closer to the fight? What does that mean?

Shara Vigeant [00:11:49]:I reduced that. Keep them short and intense closer to the fight. Because I don’t want them to feel beat up. We’ve laid the foundation and got them strong and 10 and nothing is going to happen to them. They’re not going to make any improvements 10 days out from a fight. I’m sorry. They’re not they at that point, 10 days out from a fight, they should be ready. So there’s not going to be any improvements made. So it’s just about keeping them sharp and keeping them feeling good. So increasing any load that’s close out from a fight I just don’t believe is going to do anything. And that’s my experience. Some may disagree with me, but it’s just what I’ve experienced. So it’s like we get them super strong and we keep them there and keep them sharp and make them feel that they’re still strong because that’s really important to a guy. They don’t want to feel a loss of strength and a loss of conditioning 10 days out from a fight. I want them to nail it and walk away with gas in the tank feeling good because every session shouldn’t be about crawling out here. Every session should be walking out feeling fantastic. And that’s one of the problems in MMA today of strength and conditioning. It’s all about killing each other. And it shouldn’t be like that. Its okay to walk out of the gym with a little bit in the gas tank because it’s a longevity game. It’s about you being able to do this for the longer term.

Corey Beasley [00:13:04]: Well, and I think that’s a huge point is going too hard too much, too often and I think that’s one of the major reasons why there’s so many injuries and guys pulling out of fights and getting and being banged up all the time and it shows into their career to say the least, these guys walking around that are 28 years old, 30 years old, that can hardly move that five or six scars on all over their body from surgeries and stuff like that. I mean, some stuff is unavoidable without question, but I think a lot of this stuff comes up because guy are so burnt.

Shara Vigeant [00:13:37]:
And you know what fighters can be really guilty of the more is better mentality burning back a fighter because they’re scared they’re not doing enough because of the old school mentality of more is better. They’re scared they’re not doing enough. So they’re like, there’s been cases in some of my guys sneaking in sessions trying to do extra work when I try to explain to them this extra work. Is this extra work making you better or is it just making you tired? Like there’s a difference. The work you’re putting in should have some type of progress and progression. Every time you’re doing something, not just getting you tired, anybody can make you tired, but can anybody make you better? So make sure that the sessions is a quality over quantity. There still needs to be work put in. But I had a guide do four sessions in a day and we had to have a discussion about that. I don’t feel that those four sessions were necessary to make you better. Especially let’s look at the long-term thing you got eight weeks here. Can you maintain this, this level of intensity and work for eight weeks? No, something’s got to give. You’re either going to burn out, you’re going to over train. And also the one thing to that why we see a lot of these guys trying to do more is because it’s a weight class sport. So in their head, my understanding is they want to do all this other extra work to keep their weight in check when it should be their nutrition, keeping their weight in check, not the training. The training definitely helps but it is the nutrition that will keep their weight in check, so follow what I tell them to do with nutrition and we don’t got to worry about your weight.

Corey Beasley [00:15:06]: Now real quick you are talking about nutrition, what are some of the just basic pillars that you’re telling your guys to do each week?

Shara Vigeant [00:15:15]: So it depends on if they’re getting ready for a fight or not. I don’t like these guys to blow up between fights. I want them to keep their weight in check in. And you are a professional athlete and you could get a call anytime to have a fight. So therefore you need to keep your weight in check. I give the guys 10 days off after fight, depending on, how much damage they took and whatnot. You know what, you have seven to 10 days off after fight, enjoy yourself, eat what you want, but then it’s time to get back to your job and your job is to eat well and train and get and improve yourself. And nutrition is a pillar in terms of sports performance you can’t expect your machine to run well on shitty fuel. So if you want to know why your training sessions aren’t going well, nutrition and sleep obviously are one of those things that we look at. So when they’re getting ready for a fight, they have a pretty laid out a plan that they follow and they send me their weight every week. I make sure the nutrition is working for them because I get feedback from them. I want to know how they felt and training. I want to know how their moods are. How was your hunger? How are you feeling about all this nutrition? Like that kind of stuff tells me if it’s working or not. And of course whether their weight is going down. But I also don’t worry so much about if their weight goes down because I test body fat. So I just try to get them leaner cause the leaner they are, the better the weight cut obviously. And then if they’re not getting ready for a fight, like I said, I try to make them follow the 80/20 rule where it’s like 80% of the time I want you to eat like a professional athlete. 20% of the time you can eat what you want. So to me that’s still being regimented and structured and routine and will keep their weight closer, so they don’t blow up but also make them feel like they can have a life. Because if they’re dieting 24/7, 365 days a week, it’s not going to last. They’re going to hate it and they’re going to get eating issues. So when they’re not getting ready for a fight, it’s like let’s still eat like a professional athlete 80% of the time.

Corey Beasley [00:17:06]: I think that’s a good flexible rule. That I think most people can follow. And I tell them my guys the same exact thing. Because like you said, if you make people eat boiled chicken and broccoli all the time, they’re going to freak out and they’re going to rebound and go the other direction and it’s not what you want?

Shara Vigeant [00:17:23]:Yeah. And they’re not going to dared to it long-term. And at the end of the day, we have to remember this is about longevity and long term. So how like that’s another question that I asked for the guy that comes in for the first time, where do you see yourself going in this? How much longer do you want to fight for? So if you want to fight for longer, we need to start taking care of your body. And that means including proper nutrition and regeneration and all this other stuff that you need to be doing so that you can get another year out of fighting. Otherwise, if you’re not taking care of your body and your vessel, you’re going to have a very short fight career.

Corey Beasley [00:17:56]: As you’re going off throughout the week, how often do you typically see your guys each week?

Shara Vigeant [00:18:01]:For sure two days a week, sometimes three. It depends on it depends on the guy and what their needs are. For sure. Some guys come in like the three days a week. Some guys only want two days a week. I don’t know if it’s the same with you, but I have, I find that a lot of the guys don’t like strength and conditioning. They want to be on the mat and there’s a few of them that love it. But once they start to see the results from it, then they get here and they start to enjoy it more. And that’s part of my job is to make it not fun, but I also want it to make it so that they want to be here because getting buy in from them can be hard sometimes cause they’d rather be on the mats working on their skills.

Corey Beasley [00:18:43]: Now when they’re not with you, do you give them, aside from good nutrition and sleep, what other types of restorative work are they doing outside of the gym? Just to stay fresh?

Shara Vigeant [00:18:58]:So that varies from firefighters. Some of them like to go swimming. I really endorsed some type of active recovery stuff where it’s as simple as going for a walk outside and going for a trail walk or something. Something to get your mind off fighting. Like getting your mind off fighting I think is huge. So you’re not focusing on it in 24/7 that can regenerate your body a lot. They just don’t understand it. Swimming something. Active recovery. I like them going for floats. Even if they go to a swimming pool and just float around for a little bit, I’m cool with that. And then making sure that they’re shutting themselves off. I mean, I don’t want them to typically sit around and play video games. Some of them enjoy that. They have to find whatever they can to mentally shut themselves off. Because the mental part is the part where as much as we talk about the physical regeneration, they need the mental regeneration and not just taking a break from thinking about fighting. So getting their mind off things and hanging out with friends and doing fun stuff. To me is a great way to regenerate. I do like them to move around a little that, like I said, I’m not a fan of just sitting around playing video games, but if that is how that guy feels that he needs to get his brain off things, then I’m cool with that.

Corey Beasley [00:20:09]: And I think that’s true for everybody and if gym owner, you need to unplug don’t matter, everybody needs to kind of chill out and take some time and just enjoy life a little just to shut things down.

Shara Vigeant [00:20:21]:Exactly. Even if you’re fighting or if you’re training for a fight and you got to be competition come up, yes, you can still be focused. But part of that focus like rest and recovery is part of the plan. It is part of you being able to perform better at your sessions when you get in this regenerate day. So rest is part of the program. Getting these guys to rest is huge. It’s hard because of that more is better mentality. So convincing them that doing nothing is helping them is extremely hard.

Corey Beasley [00:20:49]: So Shara, I’ve been doing this for 18, almost 19 years. I know you’ve been doing it for quite a long time. As far as education goes, cause I think a lot of people that are listening or at least sending us questions and stuff like that, a lot of this stuff, there’s so many aspects and I think just taking your time and learning and constantly evolving and changing and learning from people is something that is going to help everyone. And I know you’re big on learning and continuing to evolve and getting around people that are leaders in the industry and what are some of the things that you’ve done in your career to grow and evolve and change?

Shara Vigeant [00:21:34]:I got mentors, like mentors for me are huge. My first opportunity to kind of mentor under someone was I spent a month, I took a month away from my business and went to Montreal and spent a month with Jonathan Chaimberg. And that was that was life changing for me. That opened my eyes to a lot of things and opened my eyes to a lot of changes that I had to make. And that was when I was really convinced right then and there that I had to keep learning from these top coaches because success leaves clues. So when they’re having success, you got to pay attention. So that was the, that was kind of a jumping board for me. And then I met Loren Landow and I started taking courses from him and just paying attention to, and same with Joel Jamieson did a course with him. So just paying attention to who is having success in the industry and then trying to learn from them and why are they having success and then continuing your education. So I take two to three courses a year, even if it doesn’t pertain to MMA. So I just spent a week at Alberta and its track and field, but I got to go watch some of the top track and field coaches coach because I wanted to see what they were doing. Like not just from an exercise standpoint, but from a coaching standpoint. So I want to become a better coach. How can I communicate better? How can I coach athletes better? How can I make these bring out the best in my athletes and that was huge for me Alberta was amazing. Even though I was completely out of my element in track and field. I still learned some crazy stuff about acceleration and speed, which is still ice my sport, right? So if I had a word of advice for up and coming strengthen and conditioning coaches, it’s just never stopped learning and get a mentor and create a network of people that you can talk to and have no qualms about picking up the phone and saying, Hey, I have a problem. Because we oftentimes get too scared of admitting we don’t know something. And I mean the presentation I just gave for the NFTA was, my whole premise was talking about every mistake that I made. I’m okay with making mistakes because it got me to where I am today. But we’re scared to admit that we don’t know something. And we’re scared to admit when we made a mistake. And I think it’s important for us to be vocal about it so that we can get better. So getting a network of people that you can pick up the phone and talk to or drop a text or an email I think is really important. And making connections with these coaches because like I’ve said, together we can be better. That’s especially in this sport because it’s still evolving and it’s still growing and it’s still fairly young. It’s not rooted in history like football strength and conditioning is, do you know what I mean? Like there’s no history and tradition here. It’s still evolving and growing, so we need to all get together and put our egos aside and say let’s help each other. Because ultimately when our athletes are in good shape, we have better fights that are opponents. If it’s a win for everybody. So let’s try to make our athletes better so that we can keep the sport growing.

Corey Beasley [00:24:25]: Yeah, for sure. I think that’s good information because trainers, coaches, athletes, anybody, it’s rare to see somebody that seeks out information and travels around as much as you do to learn. I think that’s the reason why while you are doing so well, while your athletes are doing so well and why you’re asked to speak at places like the NFTA, which is a huge deal. So I mean I think that’s cool for people to hear. I remember the guy that gave me my first job way back in Chicago, Tony Bruno told me, look dude, if you want to be better than 98% of the coaches that are out there read and watch something every single day in 10 years from now you’ll have such a wealth of knowledge that most people just don’t have because you kept learning.

Shara Vigeant [00:25:12]:And with that being said, we are in the age of information, there is a lot of information out there. So up and coming, strength and conditioning coaches can get confused. Like what should I be doing? And because information is so easily accessible and it’s so easy to put out there, that’s where I feel like we need to all come together to put out the right information for these young up and coming strength and conditioning coaches because there is a lot out there. I remember reading myself and thinking, w K this coach has this and this coach has this and what should I be doing? And you have to be unafraid to make those mistakes and trial and error. That’s what I did because there was no one solution out there when I started, I trialed and errored and made a hell of a lot of mistakes and I look back at my programs from eight years ago and I think, what the hell was I doing? I was doing what I thought was right at the time based on the information that I could find. So all of us coming together and trying to create a better system and protocol to train these guys is great. Now, with that being said, I know all these different coaches all have different systems and different protocols that work. So it’s important to understand their systems and protocols and know that this might apply to this fighter and this might apply to this fighter. So it’s like tools in the toolbox. It’s better to have more tools in the toolbox that you can apply to at the right time for the right fighter.

Corey Beasley [00:26:32]: And I think that’s really great information for people to hear because there is a lot of great coaches that are out there. They don’t all do the same thing and I might do a lot similar things. But then the experience allows us to kind of modify things with different guides as they come in with different issues. And it’s like you said, 90% of the time where complemented our paper and thrown it in the garbage and coming up from scratch. I think that information that you’re sharing right now I think is a wealth of information for guys that are coming up as well as coaches that have been around for a long time the goal of the fight camp conditioning site is to share that information and to interview and talk with coaches around the world. And I’m real fortunate to have people like you that are open share and I look forward to learning more about what you’re doing and watching your guys’ success.

Shara Vigeant [00:27:34]:Thank you very much.

Corey Beasley [00:27:36]: Of course. Thanks so much for joining us. We’ll talk to you guys soon.