The Strength Matters Hierarchy Of Athletic Development


The purpose of today’s article is to introduce you to the Strength Matters Hierarchy of Athletic Development. You will learn the ten components of complete athleticism, the importance of following a system for long-term athletic success and how you can quickly identify your current training weaknesses.


During the fall of 2016, I went through a profound change in how I perceived health and fitness. I discovered, at the tender age of just 33, I was no longer athletic. It hit me over the head like a sledgehammer. It was the first realization in my entire life that I was getting old. And it hurt.

It was during this time that I started to develop the concept of the ten components of complete athleticism. (I highly recommend reading this blog prior to learning more about this.) You see, I was on a quest to regain my athleticism, and I had to define athleticism as having tangible components so that I could correct them. It’s just how my brain works. Blame the computer science geek in me.

During this time of self-discovery, a new film appeared on my radar. I missed it at the cinema, but it was now readily available on NetFlix. It was called The Founder, and it starred Michael Keaton.

It was the story of how McDonald’s came to be. Being an avid business geek, I was curious to see what I could learn from one of the biggest companies in the world. Irrespective of what I think of the food they serve, I wanted to know the origins and the methods they used and how they came to be.

McDonald’s is renowned for having one of the best franchise business models in the world, and people accredit their success to the systems they employed to allow anybody—and we mean anybody—to open their own McDonald’s restaurant. So I dug out the popcorn, put my feet up, and started to watch the movie.

Without structure, chaos is born. And chaos leads to haphazard results.Click To Tweet

The Three Things I Learned From Watching the Founder

Prior to watching the movie, little did I know that it would be the movie that had the single biggest impact on my beliefs about athletic development. The movie couldn’t be anything further from being healthy.

Yet, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I left with three key takeaways:

  1. I hate McDonald’s even more. (Sorry, McDonald’s.)
  2. Product refinement and quality is king.
  3. Simplistic systems that people can follow and apply are the key to long-term success.

I won’t leave any spoilers here if you haven’t seen the film, but I will say that the way Ray Kroc hijacked the business from the McDonald brothers was scandalous. That’s why I hate McDonald’s even more. However, the McDonald brothers’ endless quest in the initial years to refine the product stood out to me. It wasn’t just about a great tasting burger. It was also about the speed and efficiency at which it was delivered. It was about giving the customers what they wanted – great fast food (in that era).

You can compare this mindset to the world of health and fitness. People don’t just want a great workout or to know how long you’ve spent crafting it. They want the great workout, an expert training plan, and fast results. It’s the result of living in a NetFlix society.

The film made me realize that we needed to refine our system of delivering the product to clients. We thought we had a great product; however, it wasn’t delivered with the same consistency that you get with a McDonald’s burger. There was no defined process, and our delivery was often slow. Our system certainly wasn’t as consistent as a production line of hamburgers from McDonald’s was.

The Strength Matters Hierarchy of Athletic Development is a proven process for producing consistent, reliable results.Click To Tweet

Now if you combine this never-ending pursuit of product refinement with Ray Crock’s vision of system development, you have the makings of a process and system that can be easily replicated and implemented—an extremely potent mix for business success. Ray Kroc’s vision of systems was the catalyst for McDonald’s success. It was about implementing a proven system that guaranteed the franchisee’s success. It wasn’t enough that the product was great. The key ingredient was Ray Kroc’s system of implementation. It taught franchisees how to guarantee their success.

Strength Matters didn’t have a proven process, and it certainly didn’t have a system of athletic development. I thought we did, but we didn’t. It was all in my head. There was nothing written down. The coaches weren’t implementing a system either. They were applying what they knew in their heads, too. It was educated guesswork. There was no structure, formula, or guidelines for how we created training plans, and without structure, chaos is born. And chaos leads to haphazard results.

The Founder gave me the kick-start I needed. While developing the ten components of complete athleticism, I realized that I needed to create a process and a system—a system that would lead to great results for our clients, a process that made it easy for our coaches to follow and implement, and most importantly, a system that had a solid basis of scientific and real world, practical application.

Why You Need a System of Athletic Development

Systems and processes play a significant role in building a business. They serve as the company’s essential building blocks and support. It’s an absolute necessity for long-term success. I’ll never know why I had never considered this for athletic development, but it became glaringly obvious.

With a model of athletic development, our principles, philosophy, and ability to implement became much clearer and easier to understand. It allowed all of our coaches to be on the same page, and it ensured that the clients we trained understood how and why we do what we do. A tried and trusted system of athletic development allows us to consider the efficiency and accuracy of the whole process. If there’s a chink in the armor, we can quickly identify it, re-evaluate it, and improve upon it. (This is what we’ve done several times in two short years.)

Systems simply aid the process of an athlete’s development. That’s the bottom line. Coaches need each client to grow as an individual, but it’s also a business. Clients need to know the systems so that they know exactly where they sit on the athletic scale, and they can monitor and see their progress.

Systems lead to enhanced performance by helping us implement strategic planning, creation, and operation in everything we do.Click To Tweet

Systems lead to enhanced performance by helping us implement strategic planning, creation, and operation in everything we do.

Creating the hierarchy of athletic development was one of the best things I ever did for my own training, the training of clients, and the Strength Matters business. It allowed us to meet and exceed the expectations of our clients.  Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of our system allows us to conveniently monitor our clients’ progress, and it leaves us better aware of any improvements that need to be made. We’ve seen a significant improvement in our coaches’ performance and their creativity. This has led to a new avenue of personal engagement between the coaches and their clients.

In a nutshell, the Strength Matters Hierarchy of Athletic Development has:

  • Significantly improved client results
  • Given us better consistency in results
  • Made change easier to accomplish when things aren’t working
  • Made training new coaches easier
  • Allowed us, as coaches, to focus on what we do best – getting results
  • Provided a framework of operations

I can’t overestimate the power of the system I’m about to present to you.

The Strength Matters Model of Athletic Development

Before I share the Hierarchy of Athletic Development, you need to understand our model of fitness. It’s the forty-thousand-foot overview.

As coaches, we now know that the most important thing on someone’s fitness journey is health. Without good health, you have nothing. Poor health impacts long-term athletic development.

We prioritize it above everything else. (You can learn more about how we assess health here.)

Once we establish good health, we can focus on the quality of movement, and with good movement comes fitness. Fitness is a very broad term. It means different things to different people. Some people see fitness as a mechanism to deal with everyday life. Others see it as a route to sporting glory. Either way, it’s ambiguous.  It’s why we’ve used it. There’s so much more to this, but it’s our starting point.

This is where the Hierarchy of Athletic Development comes into play.

The Strength Matters Hierarchy of Athletic Development

If you haven’t yet read the blog about the ten components of complete athleticism, I highly recommend doing so now. It will help put this whole section into perspective.

We believe in balanced athletic fitness here at Strength Matters. We believe everyone is an athlete, an everyday athlete. We believe everyday athletes should be ready to handle anything that life throws their way. But more importantly, we simply believe that life’s just better when you are an everyday athlete. The Strength Matters Hierarchy of Athletic Development is a complete pathway for all levels and abilities to follow on their journey to elite fitness.

We believe that complete athleticism is made up of ten components:

  • Mobility
  • Stability
  • Balance and Coordination
  • Strength
  • Aerobic Capacity
  • Power
  • Speed
  • Agility
  • Anaerobic Capacity
  • Mental Resilience

They’re all equally as important; however, some precede others to enable a full expression of athleticism.

Strength Matters Hierarchy Of Athletic DevelopmentAs you can see, there are three layers. Layer 1 is the foundation of movement. Layer 2 is basic strength and aerobic capacity. Layer 3 is the advanced sexy stuff that everyone wants to default to. But more often than not, people don’t have the pre-requisite movement, strength, or aerobic capacity to do so effectively. This ultimately leads to athletes not achieving their true maximum physical potential, or worse yet, it can lead to injury.

The Hierarchy of Athletic Development is our guiding beacon. For each of the components, we have assessments and standards that we want people to adhere to.

Our initial process for assessment is:

  • We assess health.
  • We assess Layer 1.
  • We assess Layer 2.1.

Not everyone will receive all the assessments. You have to earn the right.

We have broken Layers 2 and 3 into two subsections – 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, and 3.2. It’s like a computer game. You have to successfully complete each level to reach the next one. If an athlete successfully passes Layer 1 and Layer 2.1, we then open up Layer 2.2. This layer includes slightly more advanced strength and aerobic capacity assessments. This is essentially the gateway to elite athleticism.

The standards we have set here need to be adhered to before we allow anyone to progress to Layer 3. No exceptions. We know from experience that if these strength standards or aerobic standards cannot be met, true maximum physical potential will never be reached, and the risk of injury is higher than it needs to be. We believe less than 5% of the world’s population will ever need to venture into the world of Layer 3. Layer 3 is the world of elite athleticism. Most humans are not elite athletes, and their lifestyles are not conducive to elite training, even though they think they are.

If people never reach Layer 3, in our eyes, that’s okay. Layer 2 and 2.2 are good healthy places to be. You will have the pre-requisite strength and aerobic capacity to take on anything in life and perform well. Layer 3 is for those who are ready to start pushing their athletic capabilities to the next level, and that takes a certain kind of individual.

The Hierarchy of Athletic Development is our proven process of success that we all adhere to at Strength Matters. We have a system of assessments, and from the assessments, we can pinpoint an individual’s weakness with incredible accuracy. It has completely revolutionized how we train people. It has significantly improved the speed at which we assess, and it has significantly improved how we program for people, allowing for a more individualized solution that leads to better, faster results.

I honestly don’t know how we lived for so long without it.

The Hierarchy of Athletic Development is our proven process of success that we all adhere to at Strength Matters.Click To Tweet

Closing Thoughts

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a system of athletic development. The Strength Matters Hierarchy of Athletic Development is our proven process of delivering results to our clients all over the world. People often say that training your weaknesses is the key to long-term athletic success. Well, this system quickly identifies your weaknesses and gives us the system and process to attack them, hopefully eradicating them forever.

You probably have a number of questions, which might include:

  • What are your standards?
  • How do you assess?
  • How do I get assessed?

If you were to go through the entire process, from the health assessments all the way to layer 3.2, it would take 2 weeks. That’s how in depth this system is. On the surface, it’s an inch wide, but I promise you, it’s a mile deep. We’ll cover the standards and assessments another time, probably in the form of a web class, which would be more appropriate than a blog post in my opinion. But if you’re interested in getting assessed and seeing how you stack up in the world of athleticism, join our Fit Over Thirty – 30 Day Challenge. That’s how the process begins.

Until next time, remember, life’s better as an everyday athlete.

Every Journey Begins With a Single Step

In every great movie, the hero embarks on a path that promises adventure, challenges, and finally, achievement. Often, the hero finds a guide that takes the hero under their wing and pushes him or her to the limit. Just think, where would Luke be without Yoda? We are the stars of our own movies. And we all need that guide.

When it comes to fitness, a coach can be your guide to movie hero-type success, and your secret weapon. There are so many benefits to having a personal coach. I would go so far as to say that coaching is a prerequisite for achievement. Period.

Applying the Strength Matters System of Athletic Development to achieve a pain-free athletic lifestyle won’t be easy but it’s guaranteed to work if you follow it. And we’re here to guide you every step of the way.

Are you ready to take that first step?

Apply to take our 30-day challenge today.

Life’s better as an everyday athlete. ~ James Breese

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

FREE Digital Download 

The High-Performance Handbook

for Everyday Athletes Over 30

Learn the world's most effective training system for people over 30 who want to look better, feel better, and perform better.

No thanks, I don't want perform better.

FREE Digital Download 

Thirty Workouts for People 30+

Enter your details below and we’ll send you thirty proven workouts of wildly successful everyday athletes over 30!

No thanks, I don't want perform better.
Workouts for people 30+
Scroll to Top