Friday, June 20, 2008


Back in November, I posted some words of wisdom from Dr. Fred Hatfield on "routines". I don't think anything needs to be added really - it stands alone very nicely, but I frequently receive e-mails from people asking for my opinions on their training plans and referring them to Doc Squat's words of wisdom just doesn't seem to cut it. They are looking to me to be their "internet guru". That is very flattering, I must admit, but without actually watching someone train, seeing how motivated they are, seeing their physical limitations firsthand, seeing their form on their first rep of the first set and their last rep of the last set, it's tough to make assessments and adjustments that could be essential to the trainee's health and success. I don't have anything against online "coaching" per se, but there are tremendous limitations with it and I have to question the wisdom of shelling out hundreds of dollars for what is, essentially, a cookie-cutter program with some e-mail encouragement.

Setting up a "basic training program" is pretty easy. Creating a list of exercises, sets, and reps takes almost no thought at all and if you've done it once or twice, it can be variations on a theme from there, tweaking exercise selection, order, volume, intensity, training frequency, etc. as you see fit. The problem with all of this is that, without experience, there are too many variables to sort out in a thoughtful manner. Researched, tried-and-true templates (e.g., the Westside template) are magnificent tools, but they need to be "templates" (i.e., examples to learn from), not strict training protocol. Trainees with nothing but a printed out list of sets and reps will not be able to see where a perfectly acceptable training plan needs to be tweaked and will, more than likely, be disappointed with his/her lack of progress.

Anyone can map out a training plan, split, or routine, but few are capable of sustaining success beyond the short term. It is only the sagest and motivated athletes and artists of the highest level that can handle the developments, circumstances, and setbacks that inevitably arise over the course of long term training without the intervention of real, off-line, competent coaching.

So, please be understanding if you send me an arbitrary routine out of the blue and I respond with "Looks pretty good to me!" - honestly, for all I know, it could be exactly what you need.


Franz Snideman said...

This is great! I too am often bewildered how so called "internet" gurus (who many have never even trained one client ever) are able to capture the audience they do. Marketing really does seem to be the SECRET in making a coach look like an expert. I know of a strength coach (and I won't mention any names) who wrote an abdominal fat loss book who himself has never been lean, doesn't eat well, and has never himself been in shape. Something there just lacks a bit of credibility in my book.

But the internet age is upon us and the spoils go the best marketers. Although I must admit that there are some coaches out there really are excellent in the trenches coaches and deserve the success they have.

Boris said...

HAHAHA - yes, I know more than a few of those myself. It's pretty easy to find them. Some of them are backed by pretty high-traffic sites and exactly, the marketing and hyperbole certainly will grab anyone's attention. I guess if you go around claiming to have coached many world-class athletes and have any competence at all, eventually you will have a geniune testimony to put in your ad-copy...

You're right. There are many, many great coaches out there, but it's tough for newbies/kids to tell the shysters from the gems, especially online.