If a person who knows little to nothing about vehicular mechanics were to take their car to a repair shop whose specialty was that brand/model car, would it make sense to stand over the worker while they perform their job? No, it would be a waste of your time and probably slow down the mechanic from getting the job done for you. It all comes down to trust. If you don’t trust your mechanic then you shouldn’t go to that mechanic. Same goes for a doctor. You have to trust your surgeon otherwise why would you let them cut you open?
Truth is that people pursue help within the fitness industry for a multitude of reasons, which is why they come through our door. Although my brain is moving too fast to take the time to explain myself at times, it is often necessary or warranted because a client genuinely cares about what he or she is doing. Inquisition is a catalyst to self-education. In the past I’ve gotten honest questions from clients at our affiliate about the why’s and why not’s behind our strength training programs and conditioning workouts. I think this is perfectly normal; I’m just usually too busy rushing into the next class to sit and chat. I usually don’t have the time to go in full detail when we are in the middle of a class so I generally just leave it at “just do it and you’ll see that I’m right.” However, I’ve come to realize this approach doesn’t always work for everyone, especially for those who have seen the plethora of conflicting information on the internet and TV or have a distorted opinion of what a fit version of themselves really means. Those individuals can sometimes even get resentful and begin arguing with coaching staff about anything from the workout to the way the movements are scaled for them. We’ve sadly even had people quit and move on for one reason or another. There wasn’t a good foundation of trust between coach and client. It’s also a breakdown in communication that I aim to fix from now on. To help everyone understand this coach’s goals for his clients, and the methods behind the madness, I am going to explain my philosophy as thoroughly as possible.
First off, I’ll start by talking about the current training schedule and the recent changes in workload this year that some of you may have noticed. “Is it me or did it get harder?” I’m hearing this through the grapevine lately. The answer is yes, but only as challenging as you make it for yourself. The recent uptick in variety of lifting movements and gymnastic skills is for 3 reasons; 1) we are a CrossFit affiliate so these are the movements that we should be doing, 2) adding variety keeps the body and mind on its toes preventing you from getting accustomed to the same stimuli week after week, and 3) these movements are proven to work. There are several objectives of the program and so we can only focus on a few things at a time. This is called periodized training folks. You cannot run marathons every week and still train your deadlift and bench to go up or expect the strength to perform a strict pull-up. Your body will break down! Anyone notice the volume of back squats in January? Then all the jumping and high speed lifts in February? “It’s all part of a plan” (Joker licks his lips).
So what is the plan/objective? Increase leg and hip strength from deep and heavy squats so that the client can jump higher, jump farther, sprint faster, and have a healthier more flexible hip capsule leading to less problems down the road. With this new found strength we can also now give the client more variety of movements and higher workloads to progress them farther toward a fitter person than they’d hoped possible (box jumps, cleans, snatches, broad jumps, atlas stones etc…) Anyone get sick of bench-press, and over head presses? How about all the pendlay rows, ring rows, lat pull downs, dumbbell rows, and paused upper back exercises? Any of you guys and gals want to increase your pull-ups and gymnastic prowess? Maybe you want to get a leaner more muscular upper body? How about a nicer more healthy looking posture for your spine? These movements are selected because they do just that. Most people aspire to do the “cool movements” but have to work on the basic things and build their strength up prior. Without this basic strength foundation your progress will stall. This turns into frustration then quitting and that isn’t what I want to be going on. This means that not only have you failed but I have failed as a coach.
I as well as the rest of the staff not only continue to seek education in our field and look for new ways to help the members, but we’ve also learned from years of failures and success. Trial and error has been my biggest self educating tool especially when it comes to fitness. I’ve injured myself, over trained, under recovered, ran too much, ran too little, sacrificed strength for endurance, performance for superficial hypertrophy. I have endured broken ankles, fractured legs, heat stress, and lack of progress all so you don’t have to. I have tried my fair share of pointless workout routines to know what works and what doesn’t. So if the staff members’ certificates of education and prior athletic background don’t convince you that the staff is on the up and up, try and understand that I’ve been where you are or have dealt with someone of similar circumstance. At the end of the day our community of members keeps the roof over the gym and it would make no sense at all for me to tell any of you to do something I thought might hurt you or not move you forward toward a more fit you. The ultimate goal is to look after the health and well being of our clients.
So what have I learned in my time in this line of work? Strength is king, it makes you better at everything else. Strength takes a lifetime to acquire, your “cardio” takes a lot less time, so accept that it’s going to take a back seat if you want real gains in strength for your long term fitness goals. Running is not the same as leg day, unless you wear a weighted vest/ruck and go straight up hill screaming “charge!” Everyone should do squats and deadlifts or some variance of them. If you lift heavy things often you’ll get stronger. You can go far just by using basic barbell movements (presses, squats, deadlifts…) no need for fancy equipment. (Belts and knee/wrist supports are not cheating, just smart safety measures) Maximum weights too often on the same range of motion will cause chronic pain and or a stall in progress (this is why we change it up every few weeks). Too much of the same stimulus will cause your body to adapt and cause a stall in progress. This goes for strength training as well as conditioning. If you do nothing but GHD situps, eventually you’ll just get good at them and nothing else, or something even worse. Doing the same strict/slow lift or repetitive movement for too long a period can and will result in overuse injuries. Your legs can handle more volume than your shoulders, so when we program multiple squat sessions or lower body days in a week don’t think we are trying to kill you. Your body can handle more than you know.
Don’t train backwards. Main bar lift sets should be followed by assistance movements to work on weak links in the chain (ex:bench press first, lats and curls come after) there has been plenty of time where I’ve had to stop people from doing assistance exercises before the class started the lift. It just makes no sense at all. Rest and recovery is just as important as the work load so sleep well and even more importantly be conscious of what you put in your body. I don’t mean volume of food either. No one should be calorie counting thinking they need to starve themselves. Instead eat to perform. Tofu and juice diet isn’t the answer-Eat, eat, and eat some more. I shouldn’t have to say this but, alcohol pays absolutely zero dividends to your training. So stop going to the bar, club, pub etc.
Working on flexibility never hurt anyone- so yes, try a yoga class. This brings me to my next point. Mobility, warm-up, and stretching are done in just that order for a reason. It has been found to work far better and be a safer method in preparing for physical activity. If you don’t believe me there are multiple papers, videos, and medical practitioners that agree. I wasn’t lucky enough to benefit from this knowledge till later in life. The resultant injuries set me back multiple times and frustrated the hell out of me. You all should be thankful that some pretty smart physical therapists and strength coaches figured this stuff out so that we could all benefit. It may seem tedious and pointless but it does help you. While following a specific strength program, if you miss reps or skip sets/days then you didn’t follow the program. The 60 minute class you are provided for is scheduled in specific blocks of work for you to address your different areas of focus for that day. Again the issue here is trust. Trust in the program and you will see the benefits.
I am going to leave you all with these few points to think about that I feel are the most pertinent:
1) Trust your coach and their methods. They have your best interests at heart.
2) Be honest with yourself-Don’t cheat counting reps or do partial range of motion just to get a better score. And if the spotter touched the bar, then no, it wasn’t “all you bro!”
3) Be honest with your training partner-if it wasn’t deep enough then don’t say it was or sugar coat your critique. Don’t nitpick each other, it’s my job to decide when to do that. But try and hold each other to a standard. That’s how communities are built.
4) Going through the motions is never beneficial. Do every lift, every warm-up, and every pushup with conviction.
5) Anything worth doing is going to be hard at some point, so stay hungry and keep chasing your goal relentlessly. As my dad says “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”
6) Without a plan you plan to fail. Any turkey can get up on a soap box and have you all do burpees till you puke. A lot of planning goes into not only the weeks of workouts but also the prep the night before to make sure everything runs smoothly. It’s all planned out so you don’t have to worry about it.
7) Just as reminder we have an open door policy as far as questions and help, try and make an appointment or make time to stay after class when there is time for a one on one discussion.