Adjusting your perspective towards troubleshooting your training program
1. “Learning never exhausts the mind.”Leonardo DaVinci
PREPARE TO LEARN…and keep learning. Knowledge, indeed, is power. Fitness is no different. All too often I’ve seen folks stroll into a gym and rinse and repeat their workout routine and maintain their physical status quo. They refuse to learn new exercises, put a spin on their routine or keep abreast of nutrition and supplementation. Amass more knowledge…more exercises…more healthy recipes…more everything! It’s a lifelong process so get ready to keep progressing. Stagnation leads to regression…not progression.
2. “The one thing I’ve always done is to try not to overcomplicate anything.” Henry Thomas
Fancy exercises that require goofy setups, scatterbrained workout approaches that switch movements with no rhyme or reason. Most of the best exercises inherent in weight training programs are the most tried, tested and proven ones. Bench presses, barbell squats, weighted lunges, etc. If you can’t execute these bread and butter movements, then overly garnished versions of them are pointless. My main rules of thumb is that an exercise is best served when it can tax the target muscle (or muscles) from a high-repetition set all the way down to a maximal load with only several (or less) reps. Before switching up your routine and juggling new move after new move, make sure you have the basic principles of full-body bracing and spinal stability down. If any of my clients can’t get a basic movement down? We’ll keep working until they’ve got it because you can’t build a foundation on sand.
3. “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.” Sherlock Holmes
More often than not I’ll see trainees disregard an exercise or exercises when things don’t work . The one who says squats hurt his knees but he can do every other leg exercise with impunity or the girl who says that bench pressing just doesn’t ever work for her. The problem isn’t the movement…it’s generally the one performing it. Let’s say you have issues with squats because of bad posture. What do you do? Take out the squats? NO. Fix the posture! Humans all have broad movement capacities in a typical sense so if there are issues with your mobility and flexibility, your body will point them out. Listen to your body and go after the problems. Don’t just work around them. Every exercise paints a picture of weaknesses and strengths in the body. It also gives you a roadmap of what to fix. And if you have issues that need serious addressing, find a sports medicine specialist who can help. Barring some preexisting injury a movement dysfunction tells you what you’ve gotta do. Your job is to listen.
4. “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Bruce Lee
Be a slave to technique. This is never more true than with strength training. Regardless of whether you’re a novice lifter, bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, Crossfit competitor etc. Don’t just sleepwalk through the movement and count the reps so you can get going on to other things. Get better at the movement and treat each workout like practice. Treat it like a game of golf and look for the perfection, the least amount of mistakes. Far too often I see people add resistance or reps when the technique is extremely questionable. A science experiment is only as good as the controls put in place. Any perceived increases in strength are vapor if the technique isn’t solid. A good litmus test I pose to people is that if their technique on a given movement is optimal, would they feel safe tackling the exercise with a resistance eliciting less than 6 or 7 reps. If they don’t feel safe? The movement needs repair or sometimes, replacement.
5. “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” Yogi Berra
I recall a portion of my certification lecture given by Dr. Fred Hatfield in which he espouses that a trainer shouldn’t ask a client what their goals are. He’s absolutely correct! It’d be like the patient telling the doctor their own diagnosis. The client is coming to the trainer for advice and not the other way around. All fitness programs begin in much the same way. Low volume coupled with low intensity to help the trainee’s body adjust to progressive workloads. In laymen’s terms…starting out slow. Once the trainee has been broken in, THEN they have options on where to go and what type of training they might with to be immersed in. This same line of thinking applies to exercise technique, nutrition and any other aspect of fitness. If you don’t know what you should be doing? Research that move in the gym, hire a trainer, scour the web, hit the library…but get the proper help. But working smarter, NOT HARDER, is the most effective modus operandi you can follow. Don’t just fly blind, because in truth? The fitness industry lives on consumer ignorance and long term success is difficult to come by because so many people walk into a health club chock full of vigor and motivation…but very low on knowing where to aim it.