Without a doubt the number one thing that brings people into our gym is the clips they see online of our most outstanding athletes and clients doing extraordinary things. Whether it’s squatting 500+lbs or 200lb women doing handstands, or girls with six pack abs, people see those things and say “I want to be like that!” We are very fortunate to live in an age that makes it so easy for us to share all the awesome things that happen here on a daily basis.
But there is a down side to this online culture too. It makes people believe that everything that happens inside our gym is rainbows, sparkles and personal recordss. What those videos don’t show you is all the hours of (sometimes monotonous) hard work. What they don’t show is people becoming masters of the fundamentals, the minor details and everything in between. In fact at times there is a strong discord between what people think they will be doing when they sign up with us, and what we ask them to do.
It wasn’t long into my coaching career (which is going on its 11th year now) that a lot of people are looking for the “secret” to achieving their goals. Unfortunately for anyone looking for a shortcut, the secret is usually just hard work. Of course simply putting your nose to the grind stone and chugging away endlessly won’t really get you anywhere either. Hard work is a necessary ingredient, as is a good plan.
So what makes a good plan or program? As stated above, being a master of the fundamentals can be crucial. The basics are not exciting or sexy, though. We are all to familiar with the look of surprise when a new client sees their program for the first time, and where they expected to see tricks, secrets, and complex rep schemes and workout parameters, they instead get simplicity, rudimentary, and straight forward. I know I’m not doing a great job of selling you on what we do with this, but let me explain further.
Over 5 years ago now, when I was coaching at another gym, we were running a high intensity circuit training program, which at the time was just becoming all the rage. One day a more seasoned strength and conditioning coach from a college stopped by to check out what we were doing. He sat and watched our class, and afterwards he said “I don’t know why you guys are doing circuit training…that’s supposed to be for more advanced athletes.”
At the time I thought the guy was kind of an idiot. But it didn’t take long for me to realize he was absolutely right. In fact as our gym grew and more and more “new” people came in, I started to see the problem. I realized that when most people begin exercising they are so out of shape, and so weak, that they don’t even have the ability to work hard.
Burpees, a fan favorite of the high intensity training world, is a perfect example. If you can’t even do a handful of strict, chest to floor push-ups with good form, how the heck can anyone expect you to do 30, 40 or even 60 seconds of straight burpees in a circuit? You can’t even do a push-up and now you’re expected to do one inside of a burpee which also combines a leg tuck, a jump, and is probably crammed in between 5-6 other exercises. What’s the point? Sure you may be able to flop down to the ground, and huck yourself back up…but is that really worth anything? Every time you perform a repetition of an exercise, you aren’t just working your muscles, but you are training your brain. And if you do something the wrong way repeatedly, you are building the habit of doing it wrong. That’s why it’s so crucial to learn how to do something the right way the first time around.
The idea is that we build up these good habits until our technique becomes what famous Weightlifting coach Alexy Medvedev called “precise habit.” Do you think a professional golfer thinks about his swing as he’s swinging a club? How about a basketball player executing a jump shot? Do you believe their to be an inner monolugue while these technical human movements are being performed? “plant the feet. Push off the ground, wait..wait…release the ball.” Seems a little absurd doesn’t it? It is. But before Jordan was making the defense look foolish to hit a game winner, or Tiger Woods was drilling 400 yard drives, they put in hours of practice, building up to ability to dominate when the pressure was on and the stakes were high. The same exact thing goes for your workout. You want to do more weight? You want to do high intensity workouts? You need the ability to maintain your form, and focus when fatigued. To quote world famous physical therapist Charlie Weingroff “There are two things that make people breakdown, load, and fatigue.” Circuit training has both.
At Arkitect, the goal of the individualized program is to meet you where you are at. Not give you more than you can handle to prove to you how “tough” or “badass” our workouts are. There are no egos here, and that goes for the coaching staff as well, not just the clientele. One of my greatest pleasures is getting people to work hard without even realizing they are doing it. That’s done by gradually progressing the client to advanced levels of training, not just throwing everyone into a wood chipper and hoping that you’ll come out as a sculpture on the other side.