There has been this trend in the fitness industry for a few years now, encouraging trainers to leave their post in search of greater levels of dumbass-ery.

That may not be a proper word but it sure as hell is evident in most gyms across the world, so it’s definitely a thing.

What I mean by ‘leaving their post’ is that they totally forget that after ‘Do no harm’, their responsibility first and foremost is to understand what everything does in a training setting.

I don’t mean machines but the different ways to challenge and train a human.

When all you monitor is the size of Jane’s pool of sweat and the amount of steps she can negotiate before Big Dave is called to give her a piggy back, it really is time to go back to basics.

This article may sound like something for athletes but actually it’s EXACTLY the opposite and aimed at stopping things like this from happening as much as anything else!

DOES THIS EVEN MATTER?

You might think people are perfectly happy just having the sh*t kicked out of them three times per week.

However, if all your clients do is circuit-based, sweat fest training there will come a point where they will not see any further progress just like if they do nothing but run every day.

The body will adapt and no new muscle will be built, no new strength will be gained or abilities unlocked and no more body fat will be dropped.

They will start to question if it ‘works anymore’.

The training certainly works, but not for them any more.

The sad thing is they will assume they “need a change” and go do exactly the same kind of training somewhere else.

Therefore, if you’re a business owner and you’re worried about losing clients, you better listen up!

More and more ’boutique’ studios are popping up where the coaches really know what they’re doing and the days of random workouts as the modus operandi are going to die out.

Here are some useful guidelines about going back to basics.

It is all preceded by stating the obvious that NOTHING should be done in high volume or at speed until it can be done at normal pace for a few quality reps.

I’m assuming you respect that particular law of the gym.

STRENGTH, POWER AND SPEED TRAINING

Strength training means training to gain strength.

(I know…I am pretty much a genius with this stuff right?)

Beyond the ‘beginner stimulus’ where pretty much anything is a challenge that causes adaptation, strength training requires using a heavy weight (relative to capability) that stresses the nervous system.

By challenging a human with heavy weights (lifted correctly) we essentially call upon the brain to ‘fire up’ extra neutrons and recruit more muscle fibres.

Put simply, over the course of a good program, the more we can do this, the more strength we develop and can utilise.

Similarly, power training involves a relatively high level of force (but lower than maximal strength training) in the movement of a weight or object. This is done over a shorter time.

For example, a power clean versus a 1RM squat.

Power = (Force x Distance)/Time

Speed training involves a lower level of force but getting you or the object from A to B much faster.

For example, throwing a light med ball as fast as possible at a wall.

Speed = Distance / Time

Now there is a lot more to all of this but the point of this article is the complete misunderstanding and labelling of these concepts in workouts.

A set designed to increase maximal strength or power will typically involve 1-3 reps.

This might include near maximal deadlifts, push press, any of the Olympic lifts or a jump variation.

Whichever you choose to consider, if it is performed at or near maximal effort which is required to develop the quality, it requires a significant rest break afterwards.

Olympic level 100m sprinters often rest 5-10 minutes between all-out efforts on the track.

I know your clients aren’t Olympic athletes, but the relative level of ability doesn’t matter.

What matters is that for ANYONE to perform a personal all-out effort, the nervous system needs a lot more time to recover before doing it again.

Compare this to doing a set of 20 sub-maximal squat jumps where the limiting factor is technical breakdown or muscle endurance.

So what if your sessions are totally random selections of exercises with rep numbers chosen by checking your bank balance and sets performed one after the other?

You are NOT doing strength training, power training or speed training.

One hundred box jumps in 10 minutes does not develop power. It will build a little power endurance and…hurt your legs.

Shuttle runs performed after 20 calories on the AirDyne and 50 swings, does not develop useful speed.

We’re in a time where everyone wants to look like elite athletes or CrossFit games competitors and worse, think they can do it in three sessions per week, assuming they can get a babysitter.

The problem is that due to limited time available to train or the sheer boredom involved in sitting down for 3 minutes between maximal strength sets without taking a selfie, nobody wants to do what these athletes do.

BUT…they want to pretend they do and unfortunately too many trainers are willing to indulge their fantasies.

The result is, everything has become about cardiovascular work and endurance with all training methods just thrown in a pot and spewed out into a giant blackboard of bullshit.

‘Speed’ sessions are actually endurance sessions.

‘Strength sessions’ are actually strength endurance sessions.

‘Power sessions’ are actually death marches towards slicing a shin when one too many box jumps are attempted with an exhausted body.

There is no doubt your clients can and probably will be utterly smashed at the end of each session, but you are missing huge components of training and missing out on really improving how they function in life.

It’s a bit like taking your car for an MOT but they only ever pump the tyres up and never look at the brakes, the engine or the clutch.

Somewhere along the line, things will go wrong due to what was missed.

Now is it a bad thing if everyone is building up cardiovascular health?

Of course not. I’m all for it and it should nearly always be the foundation for Average Joe getting into training.

A good CV base enables better recovery and the ability to increase training intensity and volume as time goes on aside from the obvious benefits to the heart and the calorie burning involved.

However, the harsh reality of life is that people don’t get injured, suffer health complications or even die from an inability to keep running for a bus for sixty minutes whilst jumping over every park bench along the way.

It doesn’t happen because they couldn’t pick up their shopping bags ten times on the minute, every minute for 30 minutes.

That stuff happens when people…

  • Sprint for a bus
  • Move a heavy rock
  • Apply maximum effort to pull a plant root out
  • Slip and cannot react quickly enough to save a fall
  • Run up some stairs in the middle of a stressful day at work

Even if you run marathons, once you know you can complete the distance, the only way to get faster is to get stronger with a more powerful stride.

GAINING MUSCLE

Please stop selling glorified circuit classes as the key to building muscle.

Yes I know the CrossFit games athletes are jacked. They are also doing many ‘things’ that Joe Public don’t including training methods/volume, nutrition and ‘other stuff’.

Again, beyond the ‘beginner gainz’, building muscle requires putting sufficient tension on the muscles, enough times per week for an extended period of time.

This does not happen in a class challenge where by definition people are largely trying to do as many reps as possible in a given time or go as fast as possible around a circuit.

Slow reps and tension based training are a disadvantage in these cases where most reps are momentum based.

Mind-muscle connection is typically at a minimum as no matter how much a trainer might scream otherwise, people will compete and do whatever is required to get things done to win or simply not to lose.

HOW they do things becomes a secondary concern.

WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

Break down sessions into components

Ensure that sufficient effort is applied in working sets and enough recovery is given. Use the rest intervals to mobilise and stretch.

By all means finish with a 20-30 minute power endurance based circuit, just don’t make it all you do!

It’s unnecessary and does a disservice to your clients.

Educate your clients

Clients assume you know what you’re talking about and will blindly follow, judging the quality of a session on the endorphin high and the fact they didn’t die.

When they say “But I just want to burn body fat”, it’s time for the nutrition talk.

This is your job. This is what you really get paid to do.

Program your group training using the following phases

In each monthly phase a certain component is prioritised, but everything is trained (properly).

  1. Foundation (everything trained in equal amounts to build a base)
  2. Strength focus
  3. Power focus
  4. Power Endurance focus
  5. Endurance focus

You don’t have to give the same amount of months in a year to each element but cyclic prioritisation will take your results to another level.

In the Fitness Business Freedom program you will learn how to easily design annual programs, break down the months and create weekly schedules so that your clients are always being progressed and laying foundations for further improvements.

Step up and be one of the few who elevates what we do in the fitness industry!