I keep getting questions/excuses from my clients about doing the Tactical Strength Challenge.
- I can’t do a pull up (yet)
- My deadlift sucks should I still try it
- I haven’t been doing this long enough to compete or win
- I hate kettlebell snatches
I keep getting questions/excuses from my clients about doing the Tactical Strength Challenge.
Once again I have ruffled some feathers. You know what they say, nothing like a bit of controversy as a way of good marketing. So yesterday on facebook I posted a fun little status labeled “stuff weak people say”… Well 90 mostly funny comments later and some not so happy private messages, as well as a few friends less I would actually say the status update was a success. I do what I do and it grabs attention. So it motivated me to actually blog, which haven’t done in awhile. My goal is to change the dialog out there.
So what is weak any way? Well if you are thinking it has anything to do with the amount of weight you lift then you are wrong, because I have some friends that really warm up with my maxes, so I am not speaking as a strength god. Weak has to do with the mental aspect of training. First, I have been a trainer for well over a decade. I have sat through 1000+ consultations with prospective clients. I have had people chat with me about losing weight, rehabbing an injury, improving health, increasing energy, improving self esteem, adding muscle, looking better naked, you get the picture. I could name off 10 more things as could you. Here is the truth. Nearly 100% of the time, regardless of the goal, the person sitting in front of me is underpowered 0r weak. Sure, there may have mobility issues or a medical history, but the ONE common thread is lack of strength. period. They may want to lose weight and improve awful mobility problems but the extra weight and poor movement has left the body in a WEAKened state which needs to be strengthened.
Here are a few examples of what motivated me to vent.
I train a man named Gene, he is in his 70′s and had a stroke a year and a half ago. He has trained with me consistently for a year. Never once has he said “I can’t do this” or “this feels heavy”. (these are things weak people say). Never once has he complained and talked about how strong he used to be, nor has he asked me when his 6 pack was going to come in, or tell me he is strong enough. He has trained hard. He came to me walking on a cane and unable to drive himself around, today he is walking cane free and driving daily. Guess what we worked on this year…. Cardio with some light aerobic intervals?? No, we worked deadlifts, pulling and pushing motions with challenging weights and of course balance and mobility drills.
Or here is Loraine that is 80 years old and 103lbs. She has never said,I don’t care about getting strong. Never once has she asked me where the machines were or that she is too old to train hard. She wants to lift things so she doesn’t have to ask for help.
On the flip side I get well abled bodies 40 years younger than Gene and Loraine tell me, that 30lbs “feels” heavy and they don’t want to deadlift it from the ground. Honestly I really don’t care how it feels. The fact is lifting things that feel heavy are part of the process of becoming stronger and more fit. Yet people want to do what they want to do and expect unrealistic results. The best are the people that come to me with crumbled bodies, awful posture, and in dire need of corrective exercise, and all they talk about are wanting to see a 6-pack. So yes, chronically weak people all say the same things. It is a truth and a fact. They all complain the same and have the same symptoms. They talk about things that don’t matter and how they want things to be, yet fail to listen and put in the work that matters. This doesn’t mean everyone needs to deadlift 500lbs or do weighted pullups, but it does mean that you should never set a limit on how strong you can be or be afraid to challenge yourself.
Jim Wendler a strength coach in the fitness industry has a great shirt that says “YOU ARE BEING LIED TO”. And I couldn’t agree with him more. What many people hear and believe in are all based on a marketing and sales model to boost profits, not based in what works, just look at your local big box gym with a team of sales people selling training like hot dog stand. I want to change the dialog out there and if it takes upsetting a few people so be it. Just remember don’t be weak.
Over the past 10+ years people have hired me, and I have made my entire living coaching people to their health, fitness, and strength goals. Kind of funny that over that 10 years I have only had professional guidance on my own programing a handful of times. Back in 2004-2006 when I lived in Florida I had a fellow trainer friend of mine Adym Christopher train me to get ripped because that is what he did and I needed someone to hold me accountable and push me and have a plan for me. Because I couldn’t do it for myself. I also needed to be accountable to someone on my nutrition (if you are wanting to lose weight this is the most important aspect). The end result…..
Now, I don’t look like that today because my goals have changed and Adam is also 2500 miles away. My point is I really wanted to go after something and I hired help to get where I wanted. I didn’t argue with him I just showed up to my training sessions and ate exactly what he told me to eat. I brought in my diet journal. At the time I was a trainer and had tons of successful weight loss clients, but I needed a coach.period.
Over the past few years I have taken numerous Continuing education courses and learned a lot. My training has changed considerably and I have changed goal considerably. I have traveled to learn about kettlebells from the man that brought them over from Russia. I learned corrective exercise from the guy who wrote the book on it. With all of that I still program my own workouts with some sort of strange bias that just is always off. As the they say, “A doctor that treats himself has a fool for a patient”. Same goes many times in the training world. Dan John writes about this in his book “Never Let Go” and talks about the importance of a coach. See when I was training with Adym I just did what coach told me to. I expect my clients to listen to me, yet when I write my own programs I rarely listen to myself.
Fast forward to this past Christmas I had the honor of training someone to prepare for the RKC. He was spending the holidays in the Arizona. He lived in Norway. As I trained Mike Brown with kettlebells I got a good understanding of his background. He was a competitive powerlifter and had deadlifted 600+ pounds raw. I was stuck at 440 and It felt like a ton when I lifted it. I tried for months to get past it and I was at a loss. Mike was kind enough to ask me some important questions and sent me a program to follow over the next 10 weeks. My only job was to follow it. He even went so far as to give me each weight that I would attempt when I went for my new max attempt. The past 10 weeks have been a blast. There were numerous times when the weights he told me to use felt light and my instinct was to just go heavier, but I didn’t. I didn’t because coach told me to do X so I did X. If I chose to do heavier weight I would no longer be doing his program, I would be doing my version of his program and that does not provide results promised. So today was the day that I was expected to attempt my max lift. The funny thing is I kept wanting to take over. Coach told me to lift 315, 365,415,445, and then go for 475. He wanted me to lift singles of each lift. Immediately when I got to 445 I thought, maybe I should try 455 instead. Why? I don’t know why, because I am always trying to make things more difficult for myself. I fought the urge and did exactly as prescribed. Coach told me I would get 475 if I followed his plan.. Well it worked. If I would have tried 455 more than likely I would have over taxed myself and not been able to hit 475. If you know about the deadlift it is a finicky lift. I shocked the heck out of myself today, not just because I added 35lbs to a lift that I couldn’t advance on for almost a year, but that I actually followed instruction. The power of having a coach and listening to a coach is probably THE most important aspect of getting better at anything.
I read an article by coach Mike Boyle that was titled Most People are Dead at 35. It is a quick but short read but it is riddled with a couple lines that just caught my attention. He quotes Paul Chek that said “Most people are dead at thirty-five, they just walk around for another thirty to forty more years.” What made me think of this? Well, numerous things. As a gym owner I see some things in consultations that just get my head scratching. A few weeks ago a girl came in to watch one of our group kettlebell classes to see if it was something she would like, since she did cardio every day. She was in her early 30′s and was 100lbs over weight. I am not using that number lightly either. She looked at our sales manager and said, “people really lose weight doing that?” She then proceeded to say that she could not do the training because it would mess up her manicured nails and she wasn’t willing to take her nails off to get in shape. Are you F*&^ing Kidding me? You are 100 lbs over weight and waddling and you are worried about your nails! I was upset. Not because she didn’t buy training, but because I just saw someone walk out the door dying. I see it all the time. If it isn’t manicured nails, it is I just don’t have the time, or money. But at the end of the day it really has little to do with either of those things. It is hard to sit across from that person in their 50′s wishing they just did something 10 or 2o years ago when now the work ahead of them is daunting. In college I was broke, but I always found money to party and eat out on the weekends. It just had to do with priorities. Whether someone chooses to swing kettlebells, or do zumba the facts are, if you are not exercising (remember just walking isn’t exercise) and continue to eat like crap you will eventually pay the consequences. There really wasn’t any other purpose of this except to ask the question what in your life do you need to improve and what manicure excuses do you have.
The yoga world has been turned on it’s head this past week when the New York Times wrote an article titled “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body”. If you haven’t read it I suggest you do so before reading my opinion. The Yoga world has been in a uproar because of it and is doing its best to do damage control. Yoga School owners and teachers feel that they now need to combat this article with flooding the media now with How Yoga is great for your body. In the Article they interview a Yogi named Glenn Black with over 4 decades of experience. His synopsis……. Most people shouldn’t practice yoga, and those that are should give it up!! No wonder there was an outrage. I just hope that yoga teachers don’t riot in the streets because I don’t think the world can handle all the Patchouli in one area. Ok so time to get my take on it.
Mr. Black has the balls of an 8 ton African Elephant. That is my first take on this. If you read the article he states the following: Instead of doing yoga, “they need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition,” he said, to strengthen weak parts of the body. “Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.” With years as professional trainer and someone that is a lifelong student of human movement, I applaud Black for this. This statement goes for just about any form of exercise. Just telling people to stretch and go through a series of poses is reckless and irresponsible. Everyone wants to look at those in India that can do all of these wonderful poses well into their elderly years, but what we don’t realize is that they have probably been doing those poses since they were young. They didn’t have to spend years sitting behind a desk for 12 hours a day with an additional 2 hour commute on top of that. Black explains “ The biggest is the demographic shift in those who study it. Indian practitioners of yoga typically squatted and sat cross-legged in daily life, and yoga poses, or asanas, were an outgrowth of these postures. Now urbanites who sit in chairs all day walk into a studio a couple of times a week and strain to twist themselves into ever-more-difficult postures despite their lack of flexibility and other physical problems.”
Black even goes further and goes on to say that most yoga instructors should quit altogether because they are injuring themselves yet their ego won’t allow them to admit it. In all my years as a trainer I have trained numerous Yogi’s and many have similar problems with back and neck pain as those that don’t do physical activity at all. I do a Functional Movement Screen on them and they have stellar flexibility, yet they have the same issue as someone with poor flexibility…nagging pain. In my conversations with these experienced yogi’s they refuse to take time off of doing yoga. They insist in the benefits of it, without being able to truly see the harm they are causing. It was almost like trying to talk to an alcoholic that insists that the alcohol is the only thing that helps them sleep therefore it is necessary for them to do. Sounds like a far reach but it really isn’t. You are doing something everyday that is causing harm to your body yet you are too blind to see that those “restorative poses” aren’t really restoring you but rather breaking you down. Many yoga poses start to really stretch ligaments rather than just muscles. Ligament are what hold joints together and give them structural integrity. The joint that now should be stable is now flaccid and instead of giving the body the support it needs it now is a point of weakness.
Why did I choose to write about this? Well I did yoga for a period of time and though many of the poses I believe were beneficial there were a handful that really did more damage than all the benefits added up. Here is an example of one that ensured I would never go back.. Sasangasana or Rabbit pose is one example.
I will never forget the time I was in this pose. It wasn’t nearly as exciting as it looks. First lets look at this pose. The one thing that by far stands out is the rounding of the lumbar spine which rounded spine under load or tension is a great recipe for a herniated disc. Granted some can get away with this, but MOST people are not able to do this safely. In this pose I was told to by the instructor to “pull, pull, and pull on your heals and raise your hips”. I remember feeling a weird pop in lower back during this pose but no initial pain just a different sensation. As we left the class I went to shower and get dressed and putting on my shoes became very challenging. I got back to work and felt my entire lower body stiffen and pain started shooting down my buttocks.. Yep a herniated disc…… I went to yoga to help my back and found myself being very injured. Yogi’s will state that I probably shouldn’t have pulled so hard or made sure to watch my limits, but here is my QUESTION: HOW THE F&*^&*K ARE YOU SUPPOSED DO KNOW YOUR LIMITS WHEN THE INSTRUCTOR IS TELLING YOU TO PULL PULL PULL ON YOUR HEELS. The fact is I didn’t know my limit till I heard something POP. There was no pain or anything to tell me to stop until it was too late.
WHAT THE YOGA INDUSTRY SHOULD DO BUT WON’T
They should embrace this article and really understand that a huge weakness has been found. There is tons of truth to this article, and to just turn away from it without implementing new programs would be a huge mistake. There are tons of benefits of yoga and I am sure that a more thoughtful approach could be put together to still train groups of mostly sedentary individuals. In my opinion I would start with taking out the headstands, and postures with excessive spinal flexion and lumbar rotation.
WHO’s NEXT ON THE HIT LIST
The Fitness Industry and Personal Trainers are the next in line to be attacked, and honestly I hope it is. Hell, I would love to write the article myself. If someone wrote it I would probably post it to my website and forward it on Facebook. Hell, any kid can go apply at LA Fitness and be a personal trainer. They have a sales staff that push training like crack rock to a school kid and it is trash. People are paying $35-$45 per half hour session for a kid that can’t even calculate body fat percentage and have probably never heard the word periodization.
Ok, so before you go calling me a hypocrite, or get upset with me because I have promoted this diet in the past let me explain. First, I still think Paleo in general has some really great qualities. For most people in our society, they are eating way too much processed crap and when they go “paleo” they feel better and many times they lose weight. People with aches, pains, and lack energy all the time, once on this diet, tend to see symptoms go away for at least awhile. So with all this said, why would I be not promoting it as heavily as I used to. Well there are a Few.
First: Is Rice Really aweful for you?? Asians have been eating rice for Thousands of years and don’t have many of the same problems that hard core Paleo Sycophants claim happen from eating this pretty neutral grain. Also, bodybuilders have been eating rice for years and remain pretty ripped. Japanese also have some of the lowest cases of heart disease in the world and also low on the scale of Cancer as well. In the case of rice quantity is key. Eating a serving isn’t going to cause you to break out in a fat suit or make your body blow up with inflammation. The problem with rice is people eat way too much of it. If we can just remember that our mouths are not a vacuum rice isn’t all that bad.
Second: FOOD IS NOT A RELIGION!!! When I was promoting this diet, I made the mistake of having clients google the paleo diet for recipes and ideas etc….. It pretty much scared the hell out of many of them. There are blogs of people that would freak out if anyone dared give their kid a bit of processed food, and I also came across communities of people actually basing friendships around only those that ate paleo. The focus on food goes beyond a healthy relationship with food especially for those the get sucked in. When I was on the diet eating with others that ate Paleo I felt that everyone was looking over my shoulder when I ate. If I was eating a bag of nuts I couldn’t count how many times I would get asked “are there peanuts in there? You know peanuts aren’t a nut don’t you”? Go on discussions boards and you get people talking about being “orthodox” or “unorthodox” in their approach to eating Paleo.
Third: What the hell is wrong with Beans?
Besides possibly being a bit hard on digestion what is the issue? Sure, we can all agree that soy beans are trash because they are genetically modified and probably loaded with estrogen like chemicals, but I can’t really find any proof that beans are bad besides rhetoric and hearsay? It’s always based on what so and so said. Kind of like vegans that can’t do anything but quote other Vegan authors as their source of proof that it is the “way”. So many cultures have consumed beans for centuries without problems to health and disease. If you want to discuss digestion problems give me a few cups of uncooked broccoli and we may issues as well. Again, with beans portion control like anything is crucial.
Fourth: Low Carbing it
Yes, I know the Paleo diet isn’t a low carb diet, but unfortunately most people that are on it tend to turn it into another form of the ATKINS diet. If you are working out hard and kicking ass on your workouts you need carbs. Sure, those that want to eat paleo and get healthy carbs are usually smart and choose starchy squashes and yams, but after awhile yams and starches get old. Seriously folks Beans and rice are OK.
Fifth: Paleo Pizza and Almond Milk
This is what pisses me off the most about the Paleo Religous type. They will freak out if oats, grains, peanuts, or dairy touch their foods and they will tout eating unprocessed foods like the caveman ate yet they have cute recipes for their paleo pizza with almond meal and some sort of paleo cheese they purchased and for a wonderful desert they eat yummy almond milk ice cream shake…. Guess what Cavemen didn’t eat that crap because that too is processed. Kind of funny how we can trick ourselves into thinking something is what it isn’t. Unless you are milking the almond milk strait from the Almond nipples, it is processed.
Paleo and Sports Performance:
Also if you want to really talk about amazing world class athletes and how nutrition plays a roll how many Professional football players, soccer players, basketball, or world class fighters eat low carb or paleo for that matter. It only seems to matter to those that exercise a lot. Crossfitters tend to be notorious for high intensity/low carb paleo and in many cases it is a great way to create burnout and adrenal fatigue, but the funny thing some of the top Crossfit game contenders that really kicked ass this year didn’t eat low carb paleo. Peanut butter and Rice were a staple.
The Best Parts of Paleo
There is tons of research that Gluten and Corn could have some pretty crappy qualities, and that milk can also screw with some people’s digestion and cause inflammation. Realistically cutting those foods out alone could make a world of difference to most people without having to buy in to a certain philosophy that makes you feel less than if you have a bowl of oatmeal. When working with my clients just cutting out the bread and gluten can change their lives. Paleo really can get people on the right track, and at the end of the day it is most likely better than what 90% of the people out there are eating. It just goes too far in many cases and just doesn’t work in all situations, especially for those involved in high intensity exercise and eating low carb.
It is time again for lots of reflection. Personal, Strength goals, and Professional. The funny thing is, as this year winds up, one chapter is winding down and another is beginning. Timing couldn’t be better. Though at times it can be overwhelming with all of the unknowns.
Lesson 1: Not Knowing is a Given, Accepting that You don’t Know is a different Beast
There are many times in life we seem to be on cruise control. A bump here or there, but over all the decisions seemed to be rather strait forward. This past year was exactly that, until August. Ten Months of bliss at Evolution Fitness. Our first year in business and we were profitable. I remember saying “man 2 more years on this lease, I wish we could expand.” The next day I found out the business next door was closing down. It seemed as if the genie bottle was at my beckoned call just like a story book. I spoke with the landlords about taking over a bigger space. Instead of looking at this as an opportunity to let a business grow they opted to ask me to leave the shopping center because we got too big and loud!! I was beside myself. Things seemed like they were all falling into place. A growing business, clients coming out of the woodworks, an open space next door, then an eviction? Really? I mean I did wish for a bigger space, but it wasn’t supposed to work like this. A new space was needed, but I was on the 3 year plan. I had been saving money for the new gym and I was on pace to afford the new gym in 3 years, not after only 1 year in business. I guess God and different plans for me. The next few months were full of tours of open spaces, negotiating leases, and spending all of the money I had earned in the past year. I was excited, but in the same breath scared as hell. Every time something seemed to be going smoothly another obstacle popped up. Owning a business isn’t easy and isn’t for the faint of heart, it has been a dream come true, but also been one of the biggest challenges I have faced. The lesson is to get comfortable with not knowing the future. It is a fact we have no clue of what the next moment brings, and becoming comfortable with that fact will make all the difference in having serenity. The truth is the new gym is my dream gym. The road wasn’t the one I would have chosen, but then again what do I know.
Surround yourself with people that believe in you and will be honest with you
Some people walk through this world loaded with cockiness and arrogance and need to brought down to reality, others need someone to tell them that they need to go for it. I have to say that the biggest reason I felt comfortable with moving into a larger facility and grow my gym is because of the overwhelming confidence and support I received from family, friends, and clients. To them the expansion was a no brainer and they laughed at my fear. I also appreciated those that showed concern and helped me think through all of this. It came down to one conversation with my best friend of almost 30 years Toufic, and I don’t know if he even knew how I took the conversation at the time. I was contemplating taking the safer, less risky route and open a facility just a tad bigger than my current one. In my heart I knew I would out grow it soon, but I was scared to spend too much money and risk. In one sentence everything changed. He said “D, I don’t know if now is the time or not, but eventually you know where you want to go and it’s really going to come down to you believing in your abilities to take it to the next level.” Talk about a light bulb, or a kick in the stomach. To say the least I didn’t get much sleep that night. The fact was, for once I knew I had the ability, I just had to have the faith. The economy, the risk, and all of life’s what ifs…. The truth is I still don’t how this whole thing is going to work out. I just need to trust in the process and not worry about the results. It is just like a client wanting to lose weight. The weight loss is the outcome, the workouts, diet journal, and all the other pieces are the process. My job is to show up, work my tail off, build a strong team, and ask for help when I need it. The results will take care of itself as long as the process is sound.
I am glad I have lost before and have experienced failure
I don’t believe in the “everyone is a winner” attitude. I will also say that you don’t have to always win and losing isn’t bad. Losing and failing has taught me the biggest lessons in life. I feel sorry for kids that go to schools without grades and play on sporting teams that don’t keep score. All of tears in losing games as a kid made me work harder, and The “F” I received in college probably changed my life and I am happy for it now. You can’t go through this world just mooching and on cruise control hoping others will pick up the slack. about 17 years ago the University of Arizona wrote me a nice letter about my grades and said get your act together or you are not welcome. There were no effort awards. It was a sour medicine that said, get your shit together or wash cars the rest of your life buddy. It took me 2 years to bring my GPA up. Looking back this experience helped me start and expand Evolution Fitness. Staying up late studying, hiring tudors, and doing whatever it took to be a better student back in college really changed my life. This past year I was placed in similar situation. Starting a business from nearly nothing, there were many late nights, writing, researching, and reading. I knew that I wasn’t going to get a free pass on this. It was either do what it took to make a business successful or go out of business. In the real world an “F’ isn’t a piece of paper saying try harder.
Keeping the Goal The Goal
I have spent a good part of my life using numerous different methods of training. Most all of it had something to do with making sure my abs looked ripped. Well currently my abs aren’t ripped and I am becoming stronger each workout. Edging towards my 40s I am now stronger than I have ever been in 22 years of working out. I have been highly conditioned in my life, but I had women out lifting me during those times. This past year has been one of the best years in my training. Injury free and strong(er). The days of crazy workouts till I puke or can’t move my arms are over. My goal is becoming stronger and achieving the beast challenge. 6 months ago this was far from a reality. It is tough training for something specific because eventually progress slows. It is so easy just to change goals over an over and really not get better at anything. Hence the success of P90x. This year, training smart and keeping the goal the goal has been the most rewarding and successful training year for me. Whether its strength, business, or personal goals, staying the course separates those that achieve success and those that have excuses.
STRENGTH IS KING
As a trainer I see hundreds of people per year in consultations. Whether the goal is weight loss, improved health, corrective exercise, or more energy, the person sitting in front of me is usually struggling from one thing…. Being weak. Sorry to sound harsh, but in nearly all cases they are underpowered in some form. Sure there are many causes of this, but the result is a very weakened body. Bottom line healthy movement is crucial, but becoming stronger is always the goal. Focusing on weight loss, inches, and calories are just smoke screens. I just had a client share with me that since training with me he has improved his 5k Time by 10 minutes this year. Guess how much we have practiced running? If you guessed none you are correct. Guess how many squats, presses, farmers walks, and swings we have done… Probably thousands. This has been the foundation of Evolution Fitness and the reason we have created all the buzz. Ladies deadlifting 300 lbs and repping out pull-ups has created a movement that hasn’t slowed down, but to us its just another day at Evolution Fitness.
Creating a Team and Trusting others
Creating a core team of individuals that I trust has been life changing for me. I have a small but growing staff at Evolution Fitness. Without them none of the expansion or growth would be possible. There is nothing wrong with what I was doing at my little gym. I could have done just fine financially and professionally having a small training practice that offered a handful of classes. The fact is, it grew and I needed help. Those that have come on board have also added a life to the gym that I couldn’t have even imagined. Each of us have a unique energy and talent that we bring to the table and it truly is creating an amazing organization. I have been accused of being too picky on who I hire and sometimes we tend to be understaffed, but quality over quantity always wins out. And most of all we have a blast at work. Who else gets to show up to work in shorts and t-shirt and help people change their lives while making a living.
Creating a Culture is Invaluable
I constantly give shout outs to my clients and thank them for all they have done for me because they are the reason for all the success. I have done my best to create a facility that focuses on strength, and program workouts that make sense to help people achieve the goals they came to me for. It has been great, but all of the clients at Evolution Fitness have taken this to an entirely new level. They all share in the commitment of becoming stronger and better at training. They have facebooked us and sent their friends in. We have something special it is something you cant see touch or see, but the energy is amazing.
There is nothing on this planet close to the feeling of loving your child
I knew being a dad was going to be cool. I knew I was going to love my daughter more than anything before she was born, but nothing could prepare for the depth of love that I have for her. My daughter has made a habit of waking me up early on my days I can sleep in and I can’t get mad at her. She usually chooses to slap me in the head and say “daddy up” and then kisses me. Watching her laugh uncontrollably and smile is the best feeling I have ever experienced. I have had numerous cool things in my life and NOTHING comes close to this. I am so blessed to have her in my life. Business success and strength goals achieved have nothing on seeing my baby girl at the end of the day.
There have been a few things I have noticed over the years of working in a training environment. I am truly guilty of making many of these mistakes in the past, that is what motivated me to write this blog. Lots of reflection….Working in groups is nothing new, but more recently the boom in bootcamps(or outdoor exercise, lets just call it what it is), and Group Personal training have really increased popularity of it.
1) Lack of programming over any give period of time
Many groups are not planned. The trainer or instructor, at the last minute sets up some stations and says lets go for it, this sounds like fun today. This is fine on occasion but what is the overall philosophy or plan. Sometimes they actually take the time to write workouts for a week. The workouts are challenging and hard, and many times actually compliment one another during the week, but don’t progress from the previous week and will not even come close to matching up. Meaning one week there may be deadlifts in low reps for a few sets, another week there are some pullups, the next there are tons of burpees, but you never get better at anything except maybe some conditioning. Muscle confusion does exactly what it says.period.
2) Intensity Intensity Intensity
How many times have you heard people talk about almost or actually throwing up in class or how they are consistently sore for days after every workout. Here is the deal, working out hard is important, but intensity is only one aspect of training. The latest trend 40 minute high intensity “Metabolic Conditioning” sessions may feel great for awhile but eventually the floor will drop. Most crash intensely. Lack of energy and strength, or injury usually set in. The sad thing is it takes awhile for people to actually realize that the exercise is causing the problems. They will blame the gluten, or sleep, but God forbid someone attack their workouts. The only people that are usually immune to this are those that really won’t(have common sense) or can’t push themselves to the intensity levels required.
3) Strength Biased but Too much Conditioning
I usually go through other fitness websites looking at their posted workouts of the day or a persons blog/training journals. Recently I saw a site that had a strength biased training program. It really looked solid. Deadlifts programmed in low reps with some assistance work and some pullups and stabilization work. Looked really solid. Then the post workout conditioning comes in. Sprint400M, 20pullups, 20swings, 20 pushups, 20 body squats,20 situps. Repeat 4 times. What just happened? I will tell you what happened, that deadlift workout just went to shit. Those people will never get better at deadlifts. They will be bitching about not improving 6 months from now. That much “conditioning” post strength workout is a great way to just “confuse” your muscles into weakness. Believe me I know from experience.
4) No Strength Bias at all
This is true of many bootcamps I see. Not all bootcamps, just some. So if you run a solid bootcamp don’t go defriending me on facebook. Yes, not everyone cares to get strong, but this is my blog, and I think strength is one of the biggest factors that needs to be considered, so if you don’t like it then read something else. Setting up cute obstacle courses, and doing “air” shoulder presses. Yes I have seen it, people “pretending” to press weight. Now is this better than sitting at home and doing nothing? Yes, of course, but I am pointing out that just jogging in groups and doing sit ups or throwing 8lb medicine balls won’t cut it for long term results in strength. All of the benefits of increased bone density and metabolism come from gains in strength, not strictly cardio. Those that do only conditioning are weak.
5) Scaling Gone Wrong
Scaling is important in group setting. So what is scaling? Well it means to modify a workout based on skill or experience level. In reality there are some people that really don’t belong in a group in the first place and probably need One on One training. Sometimes they sneak in. But here is the problem I have. If a trainer is going to scale do so wisely.
I have seen videos where they are teaching beginners in a group setting how to do the olympic lifts. The progression they are showing these people that are new, is to use a PVC pipe since it is light. My opinion is that this is trash. Mainly because most of these people don’t even belong Olylifting. My scaled version would be to have them practice Squats, Deadlifts, and kettlebell swings for 6 months to build a base of strength and proper movement before they try and advance into the olylifts.
Another angle that I like to take is that is if someone can’t do an exercise figure out why, and maybe during that exercise in a group setting they should be doing a corrective drill that will help improve. This may not be greatest for their ego in a group setting but they will thank you in the long run. An example; I had a client that was aggravated with swings at times. Sure, doing deadlifts is a great scaled version of the swing, but to take it a step further I knew that their hip flexors were completely over active and causing tons of trouble. So during swings I prescribed hip mobility drills. I then supersetted deadlifts with hip mobility which turned out to be a better choice than grooving the deadlift alone.
I will be the first to admit that in some of my groups there are individuals that don’t always have picture perfect form. Some individuals will revert to old ways and get in the intensity zone. Of course as a trainer I make sure to get things to get back on the right path quickly. I remember that my job is to design effective programs, teach skills, and of course to coach them through a strong workout without doing any harm.
So the question that needs to be asked with any programming is what is the goal? Is it to deadlift big, press big, run longer, jump higher, etc….. Yes, it is possible to have more than one goal but defining and prioritizing these goals are huge. Also, are all the goals you have complimentary. Meaning I can easily program a strong military press, deadlift, and improved midsection strength (I really hate the word core) while still having a very impressive amount of conditioning. On the other hand, If I am seeking to hit my first 500lb deadlift and I want to run a sub 3 hour marathon all in one swoop, I may just create more confusion than clarity, and really no program can be realistically designed for these results to be successful. Either goal is fine to have, but together the create a debacle.
Periodization has become a dirty word in many circles. I myself have been guilty of turning away from classic models of strength and conditioning. Why? well it can be perceived as really boring. Well, I have since realized that getting stronger and better at something isn’t boring at all. I have also realized that to common folk it isn’t boring either. This past week at Evolution Fitness I was so happy watching a group of ladies in class giving each other high 5s as they hit personal records in strength. In my mind if you don’t like periodization than just replace it with the word organization. I don’t necessarily follow text book models of it all the time either but usually always look at a few things while organizing. Hell one of my favorite programs is the Dan John and Pavel 4o day program, and that really doesn’t have tons of percentages of loadto follow, but it pays attention to a few things, mode (5exercises performed daily), volume and intensity. Lots of volume over time with moderate load and intensity of the same 5 exercises. Guess what the results were pretty amazing. Not training to failure with tons of volume allowed daily training and excellent results.
In our classes at Evolution we usually program in cycles of 6-8 weeks. Over 6 weeks we have a set of 2-3 strength/power goals that we will want to achieve. Conditioning is what happens as a result of a workout rather then generally being the purpose (though sometimes we will really challenge it). And accessory work is planned around the main lifts. As a generality most people come to class 3 x week. Each class starts with the strength goal of the day and depending on the intensity we may finish up with 5-10minutes of some anaerobic conditioning. If the workout is primarily a double kettlebell complex then no additional conditioning is necessary. If you have ever done them you will know exactly what I mean.
Here is a sample program Goals, Deadlift , press,Squat, Other goals, Single leg strength, overall strong.
Deadlifts work up to a heavy 5 reps, Each week go up 5-10 pounds each week for 4 weeks then go lighter. Kettlebell Presses 1,2,3,4,5 superset with Pullups(weighted for advanced) 1,2,3,4,5 x 2-3 rounds.(each week we try to do more reps or more weight).
Conditioning: 5-8 minutes, Sled Pushes or swing intervals.
Wed: Heavy Kettlebell Squats 3×5, Push Presses 3 sets of 5, Crock rows 3×10, Bulgarian Split Squats, 3 x 8. Farmers walks, Waiter walks, Rack walks, Uneven Rack walks.
Friday: SLDL 5×5, Pushups 10(elevated or clapping) x 5, Weighted Walking Lunges, Walkouts to planks.
Longer Conditioning Circuit: Either VO2 protocol swings 20minutes or a circuit training group that gets everyone involved Usually this last about 15 -2o minutes. Work to rest can vary in intensity based on the level of the group.
To Be Continued..Part 3 the biggest mistakes I see in Group Training Programs
I have been receiving lots of questions regarding programming, especially when it comes to group training. This really could be an entire book. Actually there are hundreds text books and thousands of research papers written on strength and conditioning programming . Unfortunately, muscle confusion and random acts of exercise are the buzz. I am not saying we don’t need variety and tons of different movements, but it seems that this whole thing of wanting to be surprised with each workout is more of a selling tool than anything based in science. Another thing that really throws things off is the increased popularity of group training. In many situations kettlebell classes and other forms of group training end up turning into bootcamp style circuit training classes. Having said that, there is nothing really wrong with bootcamps or conditioning classes, but if you are telling people that they will become stronger, these types of classes will eventually lose benefit. Sure they will be fun but what is the goal? Think about it for a second……….. what is the goal? What is trying to be achieved with the classes being offered. Only when this question is answered, can programming even start to happen. I know at Evolution Fitness our motto is “Tucson’s School of Strength”. So if I am making this my statement, I better foster programs that make this happen. Its not to say that conditioning, flexibility, and endurance are not also occurring, but how are we programming strength. Here is why I talk about strength so much. Bottom line, strength trumps conditioning . I was recently at an event where a young woman that runs marathons was amongst the group. I bet her conditioning was pretty darn good. Yet when we were tossing an 8lb Medicine ball around she was knocked of balance consistently and when called upon to throw it, the ball barely stayed afloat. I actually felt sorry for her. I could talk about lots of other things here as an example but I will move on.
So how do you program strength in a group setting? Well the answer…… the same way you program strength in the one on one setting. So where is the confusion? Well here is my experience with it. Strength takes practice, workouts are like practicing any skill. There is no muscle confusion. There is progression, and many of the workouts can be very similar in nature. So how is a trainer supposed to compete and sell groups that aren’t always different. Clients do have the tendency to roll their eyes and go….“ughhh we are squatting again”, plus it is a great pitch to say, we make workouts fun!, you will never know what type of workout you are walking into. We will be so creative with your workouts that your body will never know what’s coming. You will be so challenged. Lets just get it out there right now. Any idiot can make a workout hard it doesn’t mean it is effective.
The next biggest obstacle is women (mostly women buy training), will flip out with the word strength and say something crazy like, I don’t want to get bulky. If you have followed my blog you know how I feel about that, not need to repeat here.
So it really boils down to what is your philosophy and are you willing to sell it. I mean really sell it. When people sit across from me in a consult I break it down for them up front. It goes something like ” We will help you move better than you have in your entire life, and feel like you can take on a honey badger in brawl:-) Seriously we tell people our goal is to make people become strong. You want to sell it more. Tell them that sarcopeniais why people age so horribly. Loss of strength and power is one of the biggest reasons nursing homes are so busy. Endurance cycling, aerobics, running long distances, and random acts of exercise won’t prevent that.
To be continued…How we program at Evolution Fitness……………………………..