Learn…Do…Teach.

Learn…Do…Teach.

“I keep running into people that seemed to have skipped one or both of the first two components.”         Recent Facebook post.

Unfortunately, this is nothing new. For some reason there has been an uptick in reports coming my way highlighting this situation.

It doesn’t take much observational skill, and even less effort to see that people differ greatly in differences in height, weight and limb length, and thats only the exterior view of them. Even Olympic athletes within the same weight class and sport (aka the physical and performance level ideals of their sport) present external anatomical differences.

You shouldn’t need to check page 123 of your trainer book to determine if this is true or not, but if you feel the need knock yourself out.

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Knowing this, how can a trainer suggest that all people adhere to a singular means of training?  In this specific case, its only certain exercises and a somewhat specific means on how they are to be performed.

This was the recent case involving a “trainer.”  I’m told he looks physically impressive and was hired off the gym floor apparently based purely off that qualification. Obviously the gym has high hiring standards. Anyhow, his training background/history is apparently in bodybuilding style training. Based on what was reported back to me, his claim is that 100% of the population needs to train Bodybuilding style, its the safest and most effective.

Before getting any further, I feel I must state that I have nothing against Bodybuilding, or Bodybuilding training itself.  Where I do I have a problem is that this individual has one hammer,and everyone is the same nail. For some people, and some goals it can be ideal way to go, for other people and other goals it could be the worst.  It may even be the entry point for some people until they can progress to other forms of exercise.

It depends on WHO and FOR WHAT PURPOSE.

Some facts, which counter the trainers comments…

Bodybuilding, or Bodybuilding coaches are not inherently safer or riskier than other method counterparts.  To say otherwise without any supporting evidence (as in scientific,  evidence) displays an unsubstantiated bias, limit of knowledge or possibly both.

Weight training as a whole, under qualified instruction and supervision is relatively low risk compared to a number of other sports.

Training to, or past failure points is not needed for the majority of people.  It certainly isn’t required on EVERY exercise for EVERY person. (He’s reportedly a BIG FAN of taking everything to failure or beyond.)

Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID Principle): The body will adapt to the demands placed on it.  The key point is that the demands (stress) cannot be too much, or too little.  The individual defines what is too much and what is too little, and this is not confined strictly to load, and the same exercises will not produce identical responses in all people.

Machines may not fit all bodies, and not all machines are engineered the best, lack of adjustments or maintenance being just two possible issues.

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Putting myself out on Front Street.

PERSONAL EXAMPLE OF LEARN: This is an area that I take some pride in. I’ve always sought continued education on topics, or even individual techniques.  To date, I’ve learned Barbell training from the readings of Mark Rippetoe (Starting Strength Basic Barbell) and Louie Simmons (Westside Barbell) and live instruction under Chris Duffin (Kabuki Movement Systems) and Tom Delong (USPA Powerlifting Coach.) Kettlebell, Bodyweight and Movement training have similarly all come from multiple sources.

It could be argued that my obvious investments into education lead to a bias towards other people investing in theirs as well.  The fact is, I started with one book, and went from there. Some people never even pick up one book, or do, and believe that the single text is all there is to know.

I consider myself very much a student, and I’m far from where I can ascend.

PERSONAL EXAMPLE OF DO: During and long since the Learn stage, I put in the work of doing. Rather casually I can bench press loads over my bodyweight, near ballistically press over half bodyweight overhead, single hand press a 32kg kettlebell, hold hollow body hold positions for over a minute,knock out at least five strict pull-ups and hit a cartwheel off the floor.

I’m not strong, but I’m not weak either,and based on poolside observation I’m not reflective of a good number of 48 year old males.

I personally believe that the DO is key.  There are things lost between Learn and Teach that only DO can address, and I believe that we learn things from the struggles of DO that cannot be conveyed from a book or course.

PERSONAL EXAMPLE OF TEACH: I trained to be able to do these things and I don’t automatically assume everyone else is ready to do them, or would even need to. I know that there are people with contraindications which rule out certain exercises. and points where exercises present challenges.

I learned that by continued learning, making mistakes and correcting them in the do phase and refining my teaching process.  I’ve also learned that the method that works best for the individual isn’t what I necessarily favor, its what they need, based on what they are capable of now. Therefore, I teach the individual in front of me accordingly.

 

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Meathead Musings

The unexamined life is not worth living”  

Socrates

I was never happy with my Certified Personal Trainer certification.

Actually, I was never happy with JUST my CPT certification. I believe this stems from the fact that I didn’t study hard for it (or for three of the four specializations that followed my CPT) and that no physical effort was required.

There is always more, and things can be made better. That’s my opinion at least.

I’ve been a student of my profession for some years now, and if I’ve learned anything its that every new answer leads to more questions.  There have been the  “Ah Ha!” moments and even more “Why didn’t I know this stuff?” moments.

I’ve also been a coach for a few years, and if I’ve learned anything its that the best answers lead to the desired result(s) in the safest way. I’ve also learned when it is time to refer out,or to recuse myself as a person coach.

It depends on who is front of you, the skills at your disposal and the questions you are willing to ask.

FACT: Knowing when to refer out, or recusing yourself under legit circumstances doesn’t make you a bad trainer. I believe it helps make you a better professional.

I’ve been on gym floors longer than I’ve been a coach, and if I’ve learned anything in that time is that I’m not the smartest trainer around, but everyday proves I’m not the dumbest one either.

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A free way to expand your education: Pick the biggest claim(s) from a chapter in your trainer textbook and run Google Scholar searches on how the claims stack up to current evidence.

WARNING ORDER: STRONG OPINIONS AHEAD ON LIFES LEFT UNEXAMINED.

Stupid questions exist. Need Proof? A trainer once asked what type of shoes they should wear on grass. I’d say that qualifies.

Some trainers hate being questioned. Cult leaders are good examples, and that type of mentality exists in the fitness industry.  An indicator is when questions,legit or not, are met with hatred.

Some trainers take their credentials/degrees/pedigree/title waaaayyyyyyy too seriously. It’s as if what they have learned is the alpha and omega of all knowledge. Observationally, the same people typically don’t take fair criticisms very well,and often fail to live up to self-billing.

Some trainers cannot see beyond what they know (or think they know)…yet somehow feel entitled to voice strong opinions against things they know nothing about.

Just because it was on page 123 of the CPT book doesn’t automatically mean you know what you’re doing. It doesnt even mean you passably know what you’re doing.

Kettlebell skills beyond my own level? To an RKC or StrongFirst coach you go.

Yoga stuff? To the bendy Yogi people you go.

Pain in movement? To an allied health professional you go, it doesn’t mean we can’t work around the issue to some degree but not until you’re seen by them.

 

 

 

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Going Off

” Assuming you are not injured, if you’re going to list “Strength and Conditioning” as a specialization on your resume’ then you might want to be able to explain, coach and perform movements with a degree of competency using a load higher than Day 1 beginner level.  You know,things like Deadlifts,Squats,Pull Ups,Non-Machine Rows and the other basics.

Especially if you wrote them into a mock training session.”

One of my recent Facebook rants.

I believe that you should not judge a trainer by their appearance.  I also believe you shouldn’t judge a trainer based on their level of education or “prestige” of their certifications.

That said, you should to at least look like you ran into some weights before, be able to demonstrate the fact that you can lift well and most importantly be able to safely train another person.

FACT: Of all the certifications out there, I still consider a hands-on CPR/AED certification as the most important of them all.

 

A friend called regarding a potential hire at his gym.  The applicants resume’ stated “Strength and Conditioning” as a specialization, but with further questioning I found the claim unsupported based on work experience or education. The applicant had stated they had no medical/orthopedic limitations that would limit job/exercise performance and met the jobs other minimum requirements.

Since Strength and Conditioning was listed as he applicants primary specialization, a practical skills assessment was given focusing on it.

The applicant was given a few minutes to draft a single session that could be accomplished in 60 minutes by a healthy 30yrs old male with no physical limitations and a healthy bodyweight.

FACT: Healthy 30yr olds without any physical limitations are not the majority of personal training client.

On paper, the session design had significant flaws, but it was in practical application where things got worse.

Pull-ups were listed for 3 sets of 10 repetitions. It also takes a lot of work to be able to do 10 pull-ups, much less three sets of 10. The applicant couldn’t perform a single pull-up, and the gym does not have an assisted pull-up machine.

Barbell rows were listed next, but the applicant has never performed them. While I applaud their honesty, I question how they were planning on teaching a movement that they didn’t know how to perform, or why even list it in the first place?  Whip out the YouTube is my immediate guess.

Deadlifts were last, except what we got was “something Deadlift’ish looking.”  The lift set-up and demonstration were completely lacking, possibly due to the fact the applicant used 10lb iron plates on the ends.  This greatly increases the floor to lockout position and may be beyond the safe range for many people.  I’m now questioning if the applicant actually knew how to Deadlift.

Pull-ups, Rows and Deadlifts are Strength and Conditioning staples, but not all clients will be immediately able to do some of them.  All three chosen exercises are quite challenging for different reasons, and the applicant didn’t seem to understand that numerous regressions and variations to each exercise exist.

Further, the applicant has no apparent personal experience under load.  They have no idea what its like to struggle with a weight, and likely don’t know how to actually load another human.  These are important things.

FACT: Just because a person has a well-developed physique or is exceptionally strong doesnt automatically mean they can coach another person. Once again, we shouldn’t judge on the persons appearence.

Personally, I don’t need the applicant to demonstrate using loads approaching their maximum levels, but I would like to see competent movement and coaching with a load that offers a degree of challenge to them.

Heavy weight is instructive, and it exposes things quickly. Its my opinion that anyone can make a light weight look good. Someone skilled can make both light and relatively challenge loads look good. Ideally, they can coach that skill to another person.

 

Doublethink

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Doublethink. The acceptance of or mental capacity to accept contrary opinions or beliefs at the same time, especially as a result of political indoctrination.
As the personal training industry continues to grow, the education and tools marketed to trainers naturally increases.  On the educational front I’ve noted two distinct paths emerge over the years. Visualize them as two highways, one thats very wide and one thats narrower.

 

Wide Highway. Easy courses designed to be passed easily even by those without formal education or practical experience in the topic. Courses that have apps designed to feed you the questions and answers, which could potentially lead to passing an exam via rote memorization. Courses with low entry or exit requirements.

Narrow Highway. Difficult courses designed to be academically and/or physically challenging the student.  There might be apps that can help in certain areas, but they cannot be considered stand-alone study aids. Courses with high entry or exit requirements.

My recent thoughts and opinions on trainer education led me to a 1984 moment of Doublethink.  The internet, and some of the credentialing bodies have exercise databases that demonstrate the technique of a given exercise. While I like the idea of having such a database, I also have my reservations.

My Positives

They can be used by people on either the wide or narrow highways.

They are handy as basic references or refreshers. I’ll admit to using one myself  at times, but they are never the only source I check.

They quickly provide the broad strokes of a given exercise. Some databases go into greater depth than others, and if properly used one could gain a decent degree of academic information on a exercise.

                                                                                                                                                            FACT: Exercise descriptions are the first thing I look at when reviewing Certified Personal Training texts or online databases. Typically, I am looking at how much information was left out.

My Reservations

The handiness could create a false sense of knowledge.  The trainer might not try the technique on themselves, or consider when individuals are contraindicated towards it.

Exercise technique, or more specifically what we have named a particular movement pattern is the simplest part. There is also the matters of individual form and style. A trainer might consider the online representation as all that there is to a particular exercise, and not take the person doing the lifting into consideration.

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This is what one trainer credentialing agency considers to be proper deadlift form.  I see about 5-10 minutes of work to correct the young ladies form…assuming she should be pulling from the floor in the first place. 

BroScience: Deadlifting with octagonal plates sucks.

The example can be flawed. I do not consider myself an expert on Kettlebells, but I know form flaws when I see them…and based purely on watching trainers on gym floors I can state theres a lot more going wrong than going right. For all I know the trainer was mimicking a bad example…or they were guessing their way through things with incomplete information.  Neither is a good thing.

 

 

 

Questioning Authorities

“The enemy of truth is blind acceptance”  Matthew Arnold

Blind Acceptance. Confident or unquestioning belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing. Strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence.

Just because I disagree with someone doesn’t automatically mean I dislike them. Just because I like someone doesn’t automatically mean I will always agree with them.

Just because I dislike someone doesn’t automatically mean I cannot learn something from them.

Just because a person is famous, or has fancy letters before/after their name doesn’t mean they are always right.

Trainers: Want a nearly free way of improving your knowledge on a training topic?  Take note of the greatest claims made in the book (including your CPT textbook) or video you are watching and then look at what current research has to say on the topic.

Last night I watched a video from a reputable organization which stated multiple times that “knees cannot go past the toes in the squat.” This myth continues to be perpetuated by trainers and the presenter never stated why this was considered a hazard.  This ran counter to information I’ve gained from  other reputable sources.

I later noted it was produced in 2014. A 2018 video from the same organization made no mention of forward knee restriction in the squat. While they were operating with outdated information back in 2014, they have made good on updating themselves. (1,2)

A recent check of a Performance Specialist textbook ( an outdated edition) showed a number of issues in Olympic lifting.  If this was the information that one started with and they never pursued more in-depth instruction they could potentially injure clients. The parent company has updated the text, however I do not know if this matter was addressed or not…and I honestly don’t feel like giving them anymore of my money.

It’s OK to question things, and I wish more people did. Just don’t fall prey to confirmation bias and look at the counter evidence as well.

(1)https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c375/ff851b69346484952590c2d1185252d7792e.pdf

(2) https://trustmephysiotherapy.com/myth-knees-never-past-your-toes/

 

The “Jack” Sessions

I’m presently battling an upper-chest cold that has caused me to  miss three training sessions.  I’ve found myself going out of my skull and felt I HAD to train, as it feels like I’m getting smaller by the day.

The training below flies in the face of better recommendations.  Precision Nutrition has complied a handy infographic for some things you can do while sick.

https://www.precisionnutrition.com/working-out-when-sick-infographic

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When the germaphobes hear me coming.

I knew I  wouldn’t be able to make through a typical session, but thankfully Jim Wendler came to the rescue with the  “I’m not doing Jack $#!T” session.  This meant I would do the main lift, and nothing else. (I.E. No supplemental or accessory lifts)

Wednesday: Standing Barbell Press to max single for the day.  Overhead pressing is exhausting work under the best of circumstances, but I’ve found I recover better from maximum singles work than I do from sub-max triples.

I hit my target weight and decided to attempt another lift with increased load.  I cannot claim ownership of the second, however I now know that the lift is well within my reach.

Friday: Barbell Back Squats 12×2 75% 1RM.  The adjustment made today was increasing the rest time by 30 seconds, which was probably closer to 60 seconds given how slow I am in my set-ups.

Since the load was sub-max, I used the opportunity to pay attention to technical concerns.

Sets 1-3: Focus on the hip-knee break timing,

Sets 4-9: Focus on the eccentric (lowering into the squat)  and reversal phase (getting back up)

Sets 10-12: Focus on bringing the hands slightly closer to the body. My shoulders weren’t warm enough to address it during the first bloc but they were perfectly ready for the last few sets. This indicates the need for more shoulder mobility work, my hypertrophy work for the shoulder girdle covers my bases.

I noted that my first repetition was consistently my best, but all reps would have passed judging standards.  12×2 allowed me to get in 12 first rep quality movements, and 24 passable reps as opposed to a 5×5 scheme which would have allowed only 5 first quality reps and would have required longer rest periods.

 

 

 

A 135lb limit?

” There is no reason why anybody has to squat with a barbell on their back.”

“There is no reason why anybody has to lift more than 135lbs (61kgs)”

These were the opinions of a trainer I once engaged. Needless to say, the specified loading limit piqued my interest.  I wanted to know how she came to view 135lbs as the absolute ceiling. My inner Jekyll and Hyde showed up.

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(Jekyll) Before getting into online arguments, I try finding what can be agreed upon, or where the other individual might have experiences and good points that run counter to my own.

(Hyde) BroScience suggests 135lbs is her limit, therefore the natural limit for anyone else. Furthermore she is not versed in barbell training and possibly got stapled under 140lbs. God forbid she gets a client to become stronger than she has limited herself. This is a case of a trainer producing DYEL (Do you even lift?) clients.

The Barbell Back Squat: What I can agree with: The barbell back squat isn’t for everyone.  Whether it an option or not depends on who is front of you, what they are capable of and their goals. Squatting itself is a fundamental movement.

It’s one of three competitive powerlifts and a staple in strength training.  If you’re a Powerlifter, its part of the sport and you are subject to rules of lifting form. If you’re an Olympic lifter or Strongman athlete it is a builder exercise.

I advise iron sport athletes to rotate the types of squats they perform in order to prevent accommodation, reduce injury potential, prevent boredom and strengthen weak ranges. I have applied the same training principle to non-iron sport lifters that were past the novice stage of training.

The squat can be loaded from multiple points, with some being easier on the spine and others quite difficult with lower loads. I personally believe the basic bodyweight squat is a good place to start, but I’m not sure if she only considered 135lbs of  external loading as the limit, and not people that weigh over 135lbs.

Clockwise from the top left (Red Shirt) Belt Squat, Double Kettlebell Squat, Split Squat, Front Squat and Zercher Squat.  Variations exist within each of these lift.

The 135 limit: What I can agree with. Lighter weights can be used for strength and power gains and some exercises necessitate light loads. The Kettlebell, dumbbells,cable machines, bands and sandbags are tools that can provide exceptional challenges below 135lbs. For some people might this may be all thats needed, and there are ways of making “light feel heavy.”

What I can’t agree on is the specific number applied equally to everything, everyone and every goal. For some, the infinite loading potential of barbells is the most efficient and effective path to strength development. Once again, it depends on who, and for what purposes.

I have a female liter that can easily get under a bar and squat 135lbs (roughly her bodyweight) for multiple repetitions without a warm-up on any given day. To intentionally limit her to 135lbs would be a disservice on my part, and she has routinely squatted and deadlifted well in excess of that number with zero lifting related injuries.

SIDE NOTE: I played around with the thought of what could be accomplished with a single bar loaded to a fixed 135lbs and a rack.  I found I could actually get a good amount of variety out of it, but would have to get inventive quick as the load presents no challenge in my conventional bench press, deadlift in current training methods.

I might try this out for a few weeks outside of competition.

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Her 135lb ceiling presents several problems. For example, the carriage weight of the Leg Press machines varies per maker, and even between models from the same manufacturer. A heavy duty model capable of holding 4 digit loads (something typically equipped with the or more collars) will have a carriage that likely exceeds 135lbs by itself.

The last unit I used had a listed carriage weight of 110lbs/50kg. With the machines fixed 45 degree angle, I am only moving about 71% of it (78lbs).  Is she limiting me to only loading enough to create 135?.

In the end, I don’t believe she was willing to see my side of things. I’m actually ok with this as at least I know she won’t be occupying the squat rack anytime soon.