The More I Learn

Not only do I think it’s important as a professional to keep learning and attend seminars/workshops, listen to podcasts, etc., but I thoroughly enjoy it.  There is always something new to pick up even it’s something as simple as a coaching cue or some motivation.  By the same token, I’ve found that the more I learn the less I do.  As time goes on the overall picture of program design for resistance training becomes simpler.  This is a bit of a generalization but let me explain.  When I look back a post I wrote about a year ago called “What The RKC Taught Me” it even says, “Many of these concepts are not new”.  What did I learn you ask?  How to better press overhead and do push-ups by using my lats and creating full body tension during those and other lifts.  Push-ups, pressing and tension are certainly not new space age technology, just good training.  One of the other things that comes to mind is the goblet squat.  This is an exercise I learned and started using regularly within the last two years lets say.  Well, I always had clients squat before, they do currently and will continue to do so in the future.  The goblet squat is just a different and probably more efficient style for me to teach.

The exception to this all would be the use of the kettlebell.  Before 2008 I did not know how to properly perform a swing or get-up.  These have now become staples in my programming.  But it is interesting to note that because both are such complete exercises that involve so many muscles that it allows for other exercises to potentially be eliminated.  Most of my clients and athletes are performing a full body routine each time in the gym anyway so if I can accomplish more with less then I’m all for it.  Kettlebells are gaining popularity but they are no gimmick.  They have been around for quite some time.  I personally like them because they are so versatile and easy to push, pull, press, carry and hold compared to dumbbells and barbells but it doesn’t matter what you choose to use, the overall message still remains the same.  Get on your feet, move your body through a full range of motion and use PROGRESSIVE resistance.

I was inspired to write this when I recently saw a press release for some goofy training machine.  It claims to help all kinds of people, including athletes, build bone density and become stronger, in a safe manner of course.  Allegedly the user is able to work with heavy isometric loads in a seated position, which both keeps a person safe and free from potential injury.  Did I mention one need only train this way for minutes a week?  Seems too good to be true.

I will admit there are numerous ways to get a person stronger, leaner, and moving better.  I am not familiar with all of them but the gimmicks and the high tech shiny toys become even more laughable as time goes on.  I try to keep an open mind but I just don’t need them.  I do believe that once in a great while a new one will come along that has some benefit.  However I also believe that at best some of these gadgets are like a supplement.  In some cases it may have it’s time and place but it shouldn’t be the number one priority.  Like my hero Dan John asks, “Do you wear your seatbelt every time?  Do you floss everyday?”  If not, who cares about the super supplements promising grand results.  The same goes for all the high tech hoopla at the gym.  Maybe, if you’re an elite athlete and over a long period of time have mastered the fundamentals, then some high tech gear could be helpful.  But alas, much of it is useless.

As I stated earlier, I love learning and will always continue to do so.  I am consistently learning new little tricks and new reasons why the best movements are still the best.  What I am saying is that as more time goes by the picture is slowly becoming more clear and simple.  Simple doesn’t mean easy and no shiny, expensive or elaborate new training system is going to change the picture.  Progression, same but different, small variations, whatever you want to call it, that’s it.  A minimalist approach is good for a beginner so as to build strength and master the basics.  That’s what builds “core” strength.  Building from the ground up, not balancing on one leg whilst on a double rocker board spinning a rope with your eyes closed, unless of course that is your goal.  The minimalist approach may also be best for the advanced so that they may continue to perform their given activity at a high level and remain healthy.


– Mike Baltren



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