Wednesday, January 2, 2008

"Finicky Lifters"

You do not like them, so you say.
Try them! Try them and you may!
Try them and you may, I say!

Generally speaking, I don't trust people with very strong opinions on very complex issues. Every so often, I read or hear something online from a "harcore" lifter who eschews anything and everything except barbells, benches, plates, dumbells, and racks. They believe (and I agree) that you don't need anything else to get strong. But they usually take it much further than that; also believing that people who train with different modalities and methods are stupid suckers. Not surprisingly, it's pretty common to find that these are the types that won't listen to anyone who benches or squats less than they do themselves.

People are complex beings. Fitness and strength have many facets and can be trained in countless ways. What one person enjoys, another may hate. What brings fantastic results to one, may erode motivation to zero with another. Not everyone has an interest in running marathons (or running at all). Not everyone likes grinding out low reps with heavy squats, presses, and deadlifts. Not everyone enjoys swinging a kettlebell around either. There is room in the fitness industry for all of these approaches to peacefully coexist and even complement each other.

30 years ago... hell, even today, there were and still are purists in sport who believe that their athletes are the ones that don't need and may be harmed by strength training. That pendulum has, for the most part, swung, and most coaches today are on board with strength training. However, how often do you hear someone ask the question "I want a sport specific strength training routine. What should I do?", only to get responses like "Practice your sport - that's the most important thing and pretty much all you need." It is? Really? What if you are weak and prone to injury? Will the sport shore up those weaknesses? Is the sport a good developer of the strengths and skills necessary to excel at it, or is it simply a good test of them?

Thanks to Louie Simmons, Pavel, and Crossfit, the idea that strength athletes need general conditioning (otherwise known as "general physical preparedness" or "GPP") has caught on with most. Despite these forward thinkers and evidence to the contrary, it's still pretty frequent to hear people on the internet worried that 30 minutes of treadmill work will turn them into metrosexual waifs unable to lift big plates, let alone put them on a bar and press or squat them.

People should have goals and they should find training methods and modes that are enjoyable and sustainable. But, try to keep an open mind about other training options. Finicky lifters are, in my opinion, like picky eaters. Yes, you can probably still get a reasonably balanced diet from eating limited foods and supplements will help, but you might be missing out on micronutrients that you won't know you need until it's too late. People with a willingness to try new foods will never go hungry driving around a town filled with restaurants, searching for a Taco Bell. People with a willingness to try new training methods will never find themselves pounding on a locked gym door begging to be admitted to the altar of bench press - they'll pick up a sandbag, rock, kettlebell, or even a rope and go to town.

Just a thought.


SF said...

People should have training goals and they should find training methods and modes that are enjoyable and sustainable.

I totally agree you on this point. This isn't just limited to regular people, but also to gym trainers. I have been to a few gyms where trainers' attitude were "it is my way or the highway."

Shouldn't a trainer be flexible, open minded, and creative?

I am going to get flamed for this, but I have to say that there are too many mullets and/or weenies on the web, saying "your program suck, mine is better because I can squat 800 pounds in the gym". Or the typical "I bench/squat/deadlift more than you, so I know more...".

Sometimes I really wonder if people are lifting for themselves, or lifting for ego or for someone else. Sometimes I really want to scream back at them that they are not going to win a gym award for lifting the most...but to each his own.

I also want to comment on cardio and weightlifting. I really don't get why a lot of powerlifter are anti-cardio. The typical response I have heard are "No one cares how you look in powerlifting, its all about pushing the most weight."

Well, no japenese sumo wrestler care how they look either but their typical life span is 40-50 years because by that time, most of them have some heart condition/failure.

So what is more important, pushing more weight while you are overweight or obese? Or living longer, healthier...

Last of all, I find it more exciting to watch 120-160 pound lifter that can squat 600-800.
6 to 8 times of what they weigh! Simply amazing.

Anonymous said...

Great comments Boris...

Boris said...

Thanks for the comments.

It's okay for coaches and trainers to have their own way of doing things - trainees and athletes can always find someone else. Coaches, maybe not always, but at least w. PTs, trainees are paying customers and they always have the perogative to take their business elsewhere.

As far as PLers go (and Sumo wrestlers too for that matter), that's just the nature of the sport. If your primary goal is to see how much weight you can push, it's in your best interest to be heavy. If I was serious about pushing up my squat and bench numbers (and didn't care how much I weighed), you can bet I'd be trying to add 30-50 pounds. I have no problem w. people who choose this as their goal at all. The point I was trying to make here in the post is that we should all be a little more open minded to different training goals.

Thanks. Hope your training is coming along well.

Snizshizzle said...

You've written some great blogs lately. Keep up the good work!

Boris said...

Thanks Shizzle!

Andy's Blog said...

nice post. you can't be dogmatic in the health and fitness industry, because that just turns people off and makes them resentful. even the most"unlikely" program usually has SOME merit. again, great post, looking forward to more.


Boris said...

I appreciate that Andy. Thanks.

Franz Snideman said...

Great post Boris!

Coach Dan John talked about a concept (that Keats Snideman and Josh Henkins taught at a Charles Staley Seminar) that the east german coined "general many sidedness." Essentially what it means is that the greater athlete has many "sides" or facets to his athleticism. This athlete is multi-faceted in the fact that he can sprint, jump, twist, roll, move quickly laterally, is strong, has pwoer, has speed, is mobile and agile, and has mental toughness.

Did this athlete build this athleticism only performin bench presses or running marathons? Of course not! He built this athleticism by exposing his body to different environments and by using various tools. By being focused and skillfully learning what each tool and environment had to offer, the athlete became well rounded and could be described as a "generally physically prepared" athlete.

And of course I agree with you in finding merit and value in many types of training. What works for one guy doesn't always work for others. Although there seem to be underlying principles that transcend any one type of training. I find that taking motor qualities such as strength, speed and agility, can be intelligently applied to any tool. What matters is the inention behind it and how you do it!

Great post again!

Boris said...

Thanks Franz! A new dad taking the time to read and post here means a lot!

btw, I think I'll be having an article in Dan John's newsletter soon that will be of special interest to you as a new dad - I'll shoot you a link if it works out.