So here we go with another “Ask Dave”
This one is an email from an occasional client and long time friend, the guy who edits my eBooks Mr Peter Madden.
Here’s the email:
“I was trying to convince a college mate to come train with me this evening. He doesn’t have any specific goal in mind and he’s been training in a scatter shot manner at some machinery globogym somewhere. A smart bloke, he’s done some research online and has fallen victim to info overload.
So here’s the question – how to improve the signal to noise ratio? How do you cut through the static to set a friend/client/family member/bro on the path on the path of righteousness? What are the hallmarks of simple, well – reasoned advice and how can one avoid the lunatic fringe, the charlatans and the crossfit mafia?”
This is a damn good question as his buddy, the smart fella with a membership to a standard gym suffering from information overload, is pretty much most people.
He’s the guy I saw when I worked in commercial gyms, the guy doing the latest workout from whatever magazine. Badly.
I also have a large portion of my clientèle who WERE that guy. Many who come to me have run the gauntlet of commercial gym and mainstream fitness advice and got fed up, looked to the fringe and found a small place down a side street that offers kettlebell fitness alongside a host of martial arts training and never looked back.
So lets go point by point through Peter’s question and see if we can come up with some answers:
1: Information Overload.
Yeah, this is a biggie.
Never before has there been so much info so readily available. It seems that every dick trainer has his or her own blog (erm….like me for instance) non of which are answerable to anyone, there’s no reason for average Joe reading these blogs to doubt the information he’s reading.
Same for the magazine articles promising 6 pack abzzzz and bigger gunzzzz.
These articles and blogs answer to no one. Except the next blog or article that seemingly contradicts it. You know, “Squat for Bigger Gainzz” only followed by “Squats Destroy Knees and Back, Never do Them” Or the Whole Body vs the Body part Split Or the “Use Kettlebells” “Use Olympic Lifts” “Plyo’s for Fat Loss” “P90X changed my life” “Crossfit or Die” “Piloxing” ← yes, that’s a real thing!
No, really, someone has combined a shitty watered down interpretation of Pilates and combined it with a shitty watered down version of Boxing to ensure that you get none of the unique benefits of either! Fucking Genius!
Get your vomit bucket’s ready, this Ladies and Gentlemen, THIS IS PILOXING:
Sorry about that, I promise never to show that again.
Anyway, before I loose the run of myself and start ranting, lets get back to the point.
As soon as you read one thing, something else will contradict it, then something else will contradict that. So what are we supposed to believe?
Well apart from me of course, why not look at those people who are doing the stuff you want to do or those who look the way you want to look and work back from there.
If you want big legs, go to the biggest legs in the business, non other than Tom Platz.
And what does Tom Platz say about legs?
He goes on to say “If you only half squat, you only build half legs”
Lifting more weight? EFTS.com, AndyBolton.com
Building a bootilicious badonkadonk? Bretcontreras.com
This is the advantageous side of the gamut of information available. Everything is accessible, you can look up and even contact the very best in the business instead of simply relying on what the spotty teenage personal training in the gym says or the latest blown out of proportion headline on the web.
But if you still can’t separate the wheat from the chaff and still struggle with information overload, stop reading!
Instead remember this simple salient point:
The difference between a beginner and the advanced is that the advanced guys do the basics better. <- CLICK HERE TO TWEET THAT!
And regardless of what you think, you’re a beginner, so stick to the basics which everyone knows:
Hang on, if I take that list, do three sets of 8-12 reps of each of those, in that order, maybe reverse the order when I repeat it a couple of days later, will I see results?
Yes, my friend, you will.
In fact for a beginner hitting the gym twice per week, you’ll see better mates than all your mates combined!
2: Signal to noise Ratio
I’m pretty sure I already covered this, but…..
But really, to tune into the information that is relevant to you, you need to know what is relevant to you.
If you’ve no goals in mind, how do you know which sources to go to?
There’s no point reading my site if you want weight loss, I’m just not relevant to that market and will simply add to the noise (unless you do the above workout twice a week, eat a stack of veg with your meat and maybe run a bit that is……..)
So do a little soul searching.
Do you want to be bigger? Smaller? Faster? Pain free?
Until you narrow the bandwidth, all you’ll get is white noise.
3: “What are the hallmarks of simple, well – reasoned advice and how can one avoid the lunatic fringe, the charlatans and the crossfit mafia?”
Whoa! Big and loaded question!
The hallmarks of simple, well reasoned advice are that it is
b) Well reasoned
First off, does the training revolve around the basics?
And by basics I mean the central core paradigm of fitness training which is Progressive Resistance
The resistance can be any number of things, from external load to time under tension, from speed to duration, the specifics are not in question here but the underlying principle is.
If an exercise program fails to progress a person, if there is no discernible improvement in some form or other, then really that person is just spinning their wheels.
If you’re not getting stronger, moving more fluidly and developing better endurance, what are you doing?
All these things are easy to track and test.
Strength, well that’s simple, can you pick up a heavier weight now than this time last month?
Endurance, how many reps can you do with a given weight in a set time frame or has your 10k time come down?
Moving fluidly, ok this is a little harder to quantify, but if you are more comfortable sitting in a deep squat, if you can touch your toes easily, lift your arms straight over head and have no issues turning your head to reverse the car into a parking spot, then you’re probably ok.
If you end up barely able to reach your toes, if you end up getting stuck halfway into your squat and if a flight of stairs starts to look like Mt Everest, then chances are the training program is not for you. It’s probably fine for a pro powerlifter, but not someone who simply wants to be a better Human Animal.
Next is the well reasoned question.
Which I guess is where Peter is going with the “Crossfit Mafia” comment.
I’ve talked about crossfit many time, most commonly I’m heard to say that it’s a great idea that is badly executed.
What does that mean?
Back when I started gym training at the tender age of 16, I went to the school rowing team who I was friendly with, and asked to join their gym sessions. Fortunately the coach agreed to let me in and the journey started.
The training we did back then is very much in line with the layout of training offered by most crossfit gyms these days. Ie strength work which revolves around a few basic lifts and a metabolic circuit which varies in it’s exercise selection.
Regular members of my gym will also recognise that format, I still use it.
The difference back then was we did the metabolic work first and strength second, which is heresy in most strength coaches eyes. But what was the reasoning?
We needed to be strong and powerful while under fatigue. Power Endurance was more important than max strength. And using a variety of movement patterns reduced the overall risk of injury that single plane specific movements do as it exposes the body to varying stimuli causing a more rounded adaptation to occur.
All sounds very crossfit eh?
But it also makes perfect sense. It is well reasoned.
So why is Crossfit badly executed?
It’s the fact that amongst the growing number of gyms, there is only a small portion of coaches who actually do use reason. I’m fortunate to be in fairly regular contact with a few Irish Crossfit guys and they’re smart puppies that know what they’re on about.
But I also have members who’ve come to me from other crossfits around Ireland and they’ve told me about their experiences and why they’ve left (in all but one case, it’s was down to injury or seeing their mate injured through bad practice).
The problem is quality control.
It’s left to the individual coach. Whereas McDonalds is a franchise, so every service is identical, Crossfit is just a licence, so the gym owner can do what he likes within his walls.
And if that means handing a lad a 24kg kettlebell to swing on his first visit because he “is big enough” then that’s what happens (true story, the lad, a regular gym bunny looking to try something different, took a session in a crossfit where one of my lads was “moonlighting” said lad was on in visiting his physio the very next day, my boy returned to me and the world returned to order)
Asking questions is the best way to feel out a coach or a gym. See if you can take a trial session, talk to the existing members and then talk to the coach/owner. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, but if the people there move well, perform well and there’s a general atmosphere of high quality, solid work without ego, then it’s probably fine.
When you ask the coach a question, can he answer it without using big words? If he can, he probably knows his shit, if it turns into a science lecture, or simply sounds like bullshit, then it probably is.
So lets sum up will we?
1 – Think about who you are and what you need from your training, then the research process gets much, much simpler.
2 – Don’t do too much research, training is not a theoretical process. The sooner you get of your arse and get moving the sooner you will get the results you are looking for.
3 – Basics, basics, basics.
4 – Crossfit isn’t all bad, but it is only as good as the coach, the same can be said of ANY gym or class. So quiz the coach.
Hope that answers the question.