Cookie Cutter Programming

Cookie Cutter

Cookie-cutter programming tends to carry a negative connotation when it comes to training.  The other buzz phrase is “one size fits all”, meaning that as a coach you just have everyone do the same thing without much regard for each individual.  Think assembly line.  And, I get it.  Not everyone is built or wired to train the same way and from a business perspective it certainly sounds a lot better when you say everyone gets an individualized program.  But, lets get a few things straight.  First off, cookies are generally delicious.  Second, do people still use cookie cutters?  I don’t even like to bake cookies.  No need to get all fancy, just eat the dough straight out of the package or bowl.  Finally, and perhaps more important, a cookie cutter is really just an outline, is it not?  What goes between those lines can be mixed, matched, tweaked and could potentially change from cookie to cookie if one were willing to put in the work.

When I first begin working with someone I already have an outline in my head of how to approach his or her training.  This involves an assessment of movement but also progressions and regressions that are easy to apply to many different people.  As I stated earlier not every person that walks into a training facility is wired or built the same so there is no need to force certain movements on people.  What works great for one may be less optimal or perhaps inappropriate for another.  But, these are still human beings.  Basic fundamentals still apply.  It seems generally accepted, at least among quality coaches that women don’t need to train dramatically different than men.  Human beings, regardless of gender, age, or shape are still going to use the same outline or cookie cutter to guide their training.  Abilities may change the ingredients but the guidelines remain the same.  However, everyone is going to squat, hinge,  push and pull.

barbell cookie

At Ambition Athletics we are focused on movement, strength and education.  Everyone needs to move and the goal is to move well.  As I’ve discussed before, strength, which should be worked on simultaneously, can take a person a long way in reaching all of their goals, whether physical, performance based, etc.  Education can be what separates a “one size fits all” program.  If people take responsibility in learning what will make them better as opposed to the mindless physical activity that merely initiates sweating and an elevated heart rate then they can take their training to the next level by working on their wants and needs on a regular basis.  In this case it’s up to the coach to teach and compliance from the student.

Finally, when working with another person a coach needs to work within a certain set of parameters.  This includes the scope of their own abilities, access to different tools, and consideration of the clients wants, needs and goals.  These parameters, which will change slightly from time to time, are kind of like the cookie cutter meaning that maybe cookie cutter programming isn’t so bad after all.  It just depends on how you look at it.

– Mike Baltren

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3 Responses to Cookie Cutter Programming

  1. boxer114 says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The only differences I come across are- the persons reasons to train and what they need as far as assessment reveals. Otherwise it is the fundamental human movements and perfecting them! Thanks for the awesome post!

  2. ace says:

    great post in a way this kind of contradicts a program eric cressey just put explain how I am wrong??

    • MikeBaltren says:

      I haven’t read Cressey’s book yet, although I have it, so I can’t say with certainty. He and I do tend to agree on most things. I think Cressey tries to assess and find exercises that are contraindicative and then avoid them. All I’m saying is that everyone, as a human will accomplish the same movements one way or another, just as a broad outline. For example, back squats are not appropriate or do not fit all body types but a goblet squat might work great or perhaps a split squat. From a basic outline perspective, those are all the same to me.

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