In general, today’s fitness industry is a mess. You have gyms popping up all the time, and each one trying to compete on price and try to sell you as little as possible for $8/month. And then there is the training profession. Highly qualified/educated/certified professionals, who spend 10%, or more, of their yearly income on bettering themselves with continuing education events, get to work right beside so called professionals that spent a few hundred bucks on a weekend course that taught them nothing, but gives them a paper to hang on the wall. This isn’t an insult to anyone in particular, just an industry reality which clouds the effectiveness of the results that can be provided given the right environment. .
So what is the result of this reality, you ask? There are two, very divergent, trends that have been created over the last few years, and there is one overwhelming problem with them both… they don’t work, for anyone (athletes or the general population).
Here’s the break down.
Again, not throwing any place in particular under the bus, but I am referring to the average run of the mill gym. You walk in and you see the cardio area (Treadmills, ellipticals, rowers, etc., etc.), you see the “Free Weight” area (couple benches, set of dumbbells, weights, cable machine, maybe some KB’s if you’re lucky). And just a side note, it doesn't matter how new, or clean, how many tv stations you can watch, or that your iphone can connect right up to it…it won’t work for you. It is an outdated training methodology that is too easy, there is no direction (progression or regression), and there is nothing that pre qualifies you to ensure success in the program or reassurance that you won’t get hurt or be in pain. Let’s face it, if the training program that is prescribed for you is so outdated that it makes pegged jeans and tie-dyed shirts seem innovative (child of the 80’s, please forgive me), then you have a problem.
Here is the other extreme; and this is the one I see infiltrating the athletic population and probably worst off, some of the sport coaches who guide these athletes. This type of programming has one main goal, work your butt off. Seems highly correlated to sports since, let’s face it, sports are hard. But the reality of the situation is, sports are hard, they break your body down. Do you think it is logical to use a training program that just keeps breaking the body down with no sensor for recovery? The answer is overwhelmingly, NO! You need a training program that builds durability and leads to the reduction of potential injury. Training needs to be systematically designed for everyone, taking into account the need for individually, not a roll of the “survival of the fittest” dice.
And even if they could, should they?
Here is another resounding NO! In general, all of these circuit-style, beat the snot out of you programs only move in one plane of motion, the sagittal plane. Simply, you only move forwards or backwards, you rarely move to the side (frontal plane) and almost never rotate (transverse plane) your body. One could argue that movement in the transverse plane is the most important plane of movement for an athlete to optimize/enhance.
Most sports are random? So we again should logically assume that our training should be random as well, correct?
NO! & NO!
Sports are a lot of things, but they are not random. Chaotic, maybe (if you’re unprepared), dynamic, yes, but not random. I played football for West Virginia University in the early 2000’s and we did everything possible to take the randomness out of the game. Film study, regimented practices, constant drills (it would be an underestimation to say that I’ve taken a million zone steps in my life) were all incorporated to prepare ourselves for the opportunity to go out and execute the game plan in front of 70,000 screaming fans. Oh you think the crowd noise could filter in some randomness into the game? Nope, we would practice in doors with crowd noise pumped in before road games with louder stadiums. If the center or the quarterback got hurt the training staff was instructed to spend extra time with the injured player to allow for the new center/quarterback to take practice snaps before entering the game. Nothing was left to chance. Neither should your training program.
The answer is where ever our systems tell us to stand. Regardless of your athletic accomplishments or level at which you participate in sports, you start with the Functional Movement Screen. It is the same screen whether you are a middle school athlete looking to participate in a sport for the first time or a professional athlete preparing for training camp. It gives us a firm starting point to develop our programs and it more importantly tells us what movements an athlete cannot complete safely so they can be removed from the program until corrected. After assessing and correcting movement, are goal is to optimize all the qualities that enhance the performance of an athlete, i.e. Speed, agility/change of direction, power (lower/upper), core strength, flexibility, maximal strength, conditioning, etc. These are the typical goals that athlete and/or their parents have coming in, but they are not the foundation, movement is.
The biggest argument against the type of program that assesses and corrects movement is that we never get strong, or lift heavy, or work very hard enough to create true results for athletes. This could not be further from the truth as we know that is what makes athletes better, it also happens to be what makes the general population lose fat, be healthy and look the way they want to. It also gives the program a true progression. Here is a tweet from Ian Wild, who recently signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As with any good training program, it starts with a baseline assessment to determine where an athlete’s biggest needs are and then progresses to a designed program. But once a program has been developed it needs to be effectively executed with the help of a coach to fast track results. And our coaches follow these five principles of effective training.
1. Technique should not be sacrificed for intensity
No matter how hard you think you are working, there is no excuse to use terrible form. If the goal is to burn fat or build muscle, there is nothing to support the risk of injury as a result of the wrong dosage of exercise that results in horrendous technique. Make sure technique stays tight.
2. Fatigue or soreness should not be confused with being productive
Just because you are wiped out doesn’t mean you are doing the right thing. Concepts like “No Pain, No Gain” have been so ingrained into us that a common goal in training is complete exhaustion. I say this is “No Pain, No Brain.” Instead of the search of fatigue, using the right dosage reminds us that we should be on a search for results. Yes, training may produce soreness and fatigue, but that is not your goal.
3. Recovery should be the first thing built into any program
You do not get better during training, you get better when you are recovering from it. During that recovery from metabolic training, muscles are built and fat is lost. Recovery, therefore, is not sitting there doing nothing; it is doing the most important thing: making gains. You must plan the proper amount of recovery in between sets and circuits as well as in between training sessions. See overtraining as nothing more than an overdose.
4. Proficiency in exercise technique is paramount
People like to do new exercises. The trouble is that most people have not spent the repetitions on that exercise to earn the right to place it into their training. Just because an exercise is added to a circuit is not an excuse to have never practiced it or terrible at performing it. Actually, a good rule of thumb is that exercises added to a circuit should be ones you are the best at, not the worst.
5. Select appropriate exercises and correct weights
Adding too much weight or unrealistic exercises does not make you tougher, it makes you careless. Too much weight can also make you slower and remove the whole purpose behind some of our training methods, which is to use speed and power movements to create a demand similar to those found in sports. Make sure you select the correct exercises and weights. This will insure good, safe training.
Our staff’s dedication towards continuing education is second to none. We pride ourselves on being open to change. If something makes what we do better, delivers better or faster results we do it… but these 5 points will never change.
Methods are many, principles are few; Methods may change, but principles never do.