Separate your Box with a Better On-Ramp


As an Affiliate owner, one key decision that you will have to face is how to onboard your athletes. Having visited Boxes across the country, I still don’t believe I’ve seen two Boxes with the exact same systems or processes. The fact is, the most important system to the success of your Box is the process of how you bring on new athletes. The first impression is everything. If you want to succeed and set your Box apart from the crowd, then blow them away during the first month. You need a system for the first month that delivers a perceived value that far exceeds any monetary cost. The Box with better systems will win every single time.

A successful on-ramp process must address both the physical and the psychological. Sure you have to teach the movements and you have to understand the athlete’s physiological goals, but you also have to understand the psychology of today’s consumer and how to create loyal fans that talk. That being said, I want to focus on a novel way to conceptualize the physical aspect of your on-ramp, sort of a theme if you will.

By introducing a theme and tying all of your on-ramp teaching back to that singular theme, you will find your athletes will focus better, learn quicker and retain more. They will also be able to easily educate their friends on what they are learning at your facility, and market for you at a much higher level. So what is the theme?


This is a powerful theme that will allow you to teach many concepts. Here are the the main concepts that I teach Coaches to stress in my courses:

  1. Functional awareness
  2. Breathing awareness
  3. Movement awareness

Functional awareness: Hands down this is step number one. How can you make an athlete more functional if you can’t tell them where they are dysfunctional? You must have a system of assessment that makes athletes aware of their unique functional deficiencies. A proper assessment system should not only tell the Coach exactly what joints are dysfunctional, but also whether the dysfunction will improve with coaching and cueing or whether it will need targeted intervention to improve. An athlete that is aware of exactly what their weak link is will be much more motivated to perform targeted mobility, and that will pay off with improved movement quality and lower risk of injury.

Breathing awareness: Despite all of the attention placed on breathing over the last couple of years among professionals, most of your athletes will still be clueless on proper breathing. No on-ramp is complete without making athletes aware of what it feels like to breath properly, and also how to breathe for maximum stability during max efforts. Investing 10 minutes of an on-ramp session to breathing awareness will pay for itself many times over in ways we are just now fully realizing.

Movement awareness: Movement awareness may sound similar to functional awareness, but it is an entirely different beast. You can have an athlete that has all of the needed range of motion to perform proper technique lifts, but doesn’t have an awareness of what proper movement feels like. The two main movements that you must make athletes aware of are hip flexion versus lumbar flexion, and scapular movement. Teaching athletes what it feels like to flex from the hip versus the low back will not only improve their pulling technique, but may keep them from injuring themselves. The same holds true for scapular movement. Most athletes will come in to the gym with no awareness of their shoulder blades or their role in proper upper extremity function. To most athletes it’s all about the shoulder, and the scapulas’ are just along for the ride. It’s critical to teach them to move their scapula in all planes, and how to properly position and move them during overhead movements.

Imagine if during the first month your new athlete learned exactly what their mobility weak links are, how to properly breath for stability, how to properly hinge from their hips while sparing their backs, and how to dynamically control and stabilize their scapulas. They will no longer waste time with unnecessary mobility, their risk of injury will plummet and they will be building fitness on a much stronger foundation than they otherwise might.

Since the theme of the day is awareness, how does this sound? You have a gym full of athletes that are aware that movement is important, they are aware you care about their safety and their performance, and they are aware your Box and your Coaches are the best in town. That’s how you win!

Dr. Ryan Davis, DC, is the owner of WODMedic Movement Systems, and is a non-surgical spine, rehabilitation and performance specialist that blends techniques of chiropractic, functional rehabilitation, manual therapy, and strength and conditioning. Dr. Davis has worked with every level of athlete, from the weekend warrior to professional athletes and CrossFit Games competitors. His passion is educating Coaches and athletes on how to assess and improve their movement quality. He can be reached at