The ongoing epidemic in this industry is only picking up steam, and it’s an epidemic that fluffy workout trends are doing what they can to rival.
Our industry has become overscienced for its own good. I’m not sure if it’s because of the inferiority complex we have as a collective group of professionals, since our office is a playground, our power suits come in dri-fit, and our business hours diametrically oppose those of most other professions. For all these reasons, it can be hard for a trainer to be taken seriously as anything more than a paid motivator or hired goon – especially when the median age for the industry is probably somewhere around 26.
A grim picture I may paint, but I’m only stating what I’ve observed over the past 10-and-a-half years on the job. So we, as intelligent trainers who care about our jobs, proceed to overcompensate. We go above and beyond to show that there’s indeed an academic side to this all, and that that academic side comprises 90, no – 100 percent of what we do. Beyond the fact that most clients don’t care as long as it brings results, it’s behavior that spills over into the people who buy into this heavy.
And yes, that might include you and me.
A K.I.S.S. Goodbye
All of a sudden, the basics have no place in your vocabulary, let alone being put to practice on a regular basis. Everything needs to be cutting-edge, all training jargon needs to be as esoteric as can be, and you hate on anything packaged neatly for mass consumption – even if, at its core, it’s legitimate.
The funny part about all of this is, I’ve found that most people who get this way, don’t have the “next-level” impressive results to show for it. At least no more than the folks who are keeping it simple, and, more importantly, keeping it consistent.
The next time you want to stand out in the crowd as a lifter or a trainer, focus on ditching the bands, the gizmos, the smelling salts, pre-lift muscle stimulation techniques, the post-lift preservation techniques, the cutting-edge lifting t-shirt and tights, and the program design of your favorite in-season sports athlete. Instead, focus on getting really good at basic movement patterns. There’s no need to split the atom with your training.
And by “getting really good”, I don’t even mean getting really strong. I just mean improving the quality of the movements in question. If you can squat 315 pounds, I’m more interested in seeing all the stuff you have to show for that hard work. Instead of giving me a haphazard single at 315, show me all the things you can do with 225. Until you can prove that whatever weight you decide to lift is weight you can own, I’m not watching. The same goes for my in-person and online clients. I’ll balk at a program centered on optimizing reactive force production at various moment arms, as soon as I remind myself that 1 year ago, Bob from Accounting didn’t know what lats were.
The truth is the truth: It doesn’t take much to get a great physique, be strong, be fit, and be in shape. That’s one of the reasons some of the most coveted physiques of all time were able to achieve those results back in the 70’s, long before force curve optimization or ratchet loading became a thing. There really don’t need to be so many “rules”.
What would you do if you had to spend 6 months in a gym comprising of one bar and plates, a squat cage, 3 sets of dumbbells, and a bench? I’m sure you’d be just fine.
There are legit coaches many of us like to follow on social media who mainly publicize lots of fancy, elaborate, outside-the-box training methods. What they usually aren’t telling us is, all of those posts actually comprise about 15 percent of what they’re actually doing with their clients and athletes when the camera isn’t rolling. It’s real easy to fall down the rabbit hole of thinking that social media is the end-all and be-all to real life.
There’s an understanding among knowledgeable trainers who will agree that the foundation serves as a good baseline, and it should never really leave your programming.
Long story short, you – yes, you – probably don’t need much more than that.
From a guy notorious for outsourcing when it comes to nutrition expertise, I do feel qualified enough to say this: Getting healthy comes from creating healthy habits on a simple level, and just doing that daily. Eating proper balances of good quality protein, fat and carbs with plenty of water, minimal processed food and reduced sugar can send you well on your way to a healthy and impressive physique.
And again, I can bet my bottom dollar that three quarters of people reading this would have enough of their work cut out for them by honestly attempting to adhere to the above. No crazy supplement elixirs, no eating meals in the order of nutrient, and no draconian time limitations on when to have a meal. Every dinner doesn’t have to be organic grass fed beef made with coconut oil, topped with avocado mayonnaise on a bed of quinoa, kale, and spinach, with a dessert of vegan protein brownies, weighed to the gram. Do you really think your physique will get that much better from doing so? Do you really think your physical health will?
More importantly, do you think your mental health will?
I got an email this winter from a guy asking me how many times he should chew his food on every forkful, for maximum protein absorption and to optimize protein synthesis. Needless to say, I had no idea how to respond to this – but it does show that the issue I described at the outset is clearly something that has manifest itself through the training world. If I didn’t think it was an issue, I wouldn’t be writing about it.
Your Training Clients
I’ve noticed that over the last 5 or so years, I’ve instructed a significant amount of my in-person clients and online coaching clients to scale things back, and not to ramp things up. I’ve found that a level headed coach should probably first look at what he can remove from a program to simplify it, before seeing what can be added to it to up the ante.
Moreover, humbly stated – if I’m personally outperforming pretty much all of my general population clients, as someone who focuses on applying exactly the above to his own training and nutrition, then why in the world should they be doing anything beyond that, when they’re all basically looking for some variation of the same results? If you’re in the same boat, it makes for some food for thought.
Getting to know clients’ lifestyle over the course of time is the best gift a trainer has, compared to other professions like doctors, accountants, or other practitioners, who don’t have the luxury of meeting with clients 2 days per week. That’s why I believe that designing a structure should take time, and also why I have never come up with a program for a new client after the first visit.
If you have personal training clients yourself, you may stand out by making your workouts flashy, but the benefits they deliver won’t be any greater than the coaches whose workouts are full of tried and true methods that have stood the test of time and hold up with science also. The best part is, the proof is in the pudding with the testimony of thousands of living, breathing people who achieved great results doing just that.
In almost all areas of western life, it seems everybody wants to identify in some capacity with an elite crowd. It’s pushed tirelessly through propaganda in the media, and it’s what makes certain workout methods “trend”. Being a disciple of good training and diet methods can either send a healthy message to the masses, or it can act to exacerbate the problem. We have the knowledge, and the science. A real fitness Jedi knows just when to use it, and how much of it to use.
Don’t be advanced for the sake of being advanced. Be advanced when you actually need all that stuff for yourself in order to see results.
With due respect, chances are, that’s still a long way away.
Train with Lee Boyce, 1-on-1
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