When Workout Methods Collide

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I recently read a Facebook post by Scott Sonnon that really hit home with me and I wanted to pass it on to a lot of you.  He made a comment about how so many fitness methods are like comparing apples to oranges, but they are still fruit.  I thought that this comment hit the nail on the head.

My guess is that I will attract some fitness professional looking for training ideas, but mostly my audience will be guys and gals looking to get some real world (non-loaded) information on effective training.

I don’t care if you’re after fat loss, strength gain, movement correction, overall athletic improvement, etc.  Simple training plans executed relentlessly are going to reward you will great results.

Now, I want you to be aware that there are many different training methodologies and groups preaching different advice out there, so I decided to throw together a post about some more common approaches you’ll see.  I am sure to offend someone in this blog post, but trust me, that is not my intention.  I am trying to have some fun and share what people are going to find out on the internet and in gyms across the world.  I have fallen victim to having loyalty to one or two of these groups at one time in my life and I will be the first to admit that.

The doors really started to open when I began absorbing useful information regardless of the source, and extracting what I saw as valuable from each training camp and blending it into one giant method.  I think that every one of these training methods is right in some fashion.

And at the end of the day, we are just stupid humans with a limited lifespan.  So who really cares about?  Just get up and do something. Be dedicated to whatever you do and stick with it to the bitter end.  That is something worth living for.

So in no particular order here we go…

1)  Functional Training gurus.  These guys and gals think that movement needs to mimic real world activities.  When I think of a “functional training expert”, I picture a guy balancing on a board while doing single arm rows on the cable machine.  He will justify this exercise by saying that the board reinforces stabilization of the lower extremity and rowing to one side really works the core in a “functional” way.  Movement is a priority but sometimes at the cost of pure strength and power for these guys.  They enjoy the latest and greatest training gadgets.

2)  Bodybuilders.  I’ve scene guys/gals that lift light weight for endless reps or big weight for low reps.  I feel like the bodybuilders of the old days used to hoist bigger weigh than they do today, but then again I am not an expert on bodybuilding.  Everyone knows a person aspiring to be a bodybuilder when they see one.  Their training results in large amounts of lean mass gain (hypertrophy) often at the expense of cardiovascular endurance or any functionality.  Training splits are often organized by body part, which is frowned upon by the functional gurus or the strength coaches (introducing in a second). Supplementation is heavy in this crowd, as are the wearing of cut off sweat shirts and Zubaz.  Bodybuilders, successful ones, are disciplined beyond all belief.  Their eating habits and training regimens are fine tuned to create bodies that look like they were chiseled from stone.  Bodybuilders often experience injury and overuse, which I can only guess is from the lack of balance and compensatory movement patterns that develop as they attempt to body parts instead of movement patterns.  Call me out if I am wrong here.

3)  Kettlebellers.  Military style group that extracted the military attitude and brought it to training.  It’s incredible how many of these guys and gals will be scene wearing camo or khaki colored long pants with a tight black shirt.  “Hard-style” is a common motto here.  Many kettlebellers believe that kettlebell training is the end all be all in strength and conditioning.  The movements in kettlebell training are unique and really do feel more natural with a kettlebell.  A kettlebell-centered gym will resemble a Cross-Fit gym (and many are), with minimal equipment and plenty of floor space for swings, get-ups and gymnastics style bodyweight movements.

4)  Powerlifters.  Think big weights.  Squats, deadlifts and bench press are the name of the game here.  Many powerlifters will only touch barbells because it is “raw iron”.  Anything less than “raw iron” is unfathomable and rendered pointless.  These guys and gals move some serious weight however.  Their training is is highly regimented and systematic for the ones that compete at a high level.  Think low reps and big weight.  Also think injury.  Powerlifters neglect the small important stuff when it comes to movement.  Injury is prevalent in this crowd.  Show me a powerlifter that hasn’t experienced a training injury and I will show you a powerlifter that isn’t lifting competition level weight.  These folks carry a lot of body mass, yet most lack the muscular definition and leanness of a bodybuilder.  Diet seems to be of less importance, as does any kind of longer duration aerobic or interval type cardio work.

5)  Strength and Conditioning Coaches.  Ironically, I believe that there is no bigger judgmental group of individuals on the planet.  I have learned more from this group than any other, but it is as cultish as Cross-Fit on the inside.  Strength and conditioning experts are systematic and anal about everything.  If your foot is 2mm externally rotated on a squat, you’re using “poor form”.  The attention to detail is high in this group, which is respectable, but there seems to be very little fun had.  Strength is separated from power and aerobic/anaerobic conditioning in a strength coach’s workout.  A few top names dominate the field and everyone seems to do what they do or write about.  Any deviation is frowned upon.

6)  Metabolic/Work Capacity (aka: Cross-Fit).  One word… Cult.  Anyone not in Cross-Fit is almost looked down upon as inferior.  I hate to say that, but prove me wrong and I will change my opinion.  Hard core!  This is the name of the game here.  “Don’t be a wuss, grab that barbell and squat it 50 times and then wrong over there and jump up to that 24 inch box 50 more times and then run over there and row on that rower for 1500 meters.  Then when you’re done with that, put this gas mask on and do it again”.  Hard core!  I have seen this done in videos.  I have already ready about muscle entering the blood stream and sending people to the hospital.  The work capacity/metabolic group believes in high volume/high intensity.  Work capacity style training gave birth to Cross-Fit, not the other way around.  People have been torching themselves with high rep full body workouts for centuries.  Cross-Fit just took it to the mainstream, and did one hell of a job of it.  Fat loss gurus typically fall into this style of training because it is highly metabolic and creates an after-burn effect that will plow through half-ass eating habits.  Yes, if you train at a high enough intensity at a volume that is also high enough, your eating habits can be below average and you’ll still see results.  However, you are what you eat, so if the food you are consuming isn’t quality fuel, your body is going to bonk with this style of training.  Food is truly fuel here.  What ever it is that you are doing with the work capacity group, you are sure to do an exceptional amount of it.  Sometimes to the point of total disregard of safety or overuse injuries.  These guys and gals believe that rest is for the weak and extreme fatigue builds high performing bodies.  The community is strong within this group and people are supportive. The road to your destination is unorganized and not recommended for deconditioned or beginners with little attention being payed to the quality of your movement.  This is bad. Injury awaits you.

7)  Bodyweight, Resistance Bands, Suspension Trainers, etc.  I group the rest of these folks into one.  What I consistently notice about these folks is that they all design their programs around one single piece of equipment (most of the time).  They effectively pigeon hole themselves into one training method and make a career out of it.  Many of these folks are incredibly successful and get great results with their clients.  But, what you’ll find is a far reaching effort to make movements and exercises seem “normal” or effective when they are anything but.  A perfect example appears with resistance bands.  Squatting with a resistance band is challenging yet inconsistent and unnatural.  You build great strength as the band stretches near lock out of the squat, but little to no resistance at the bottom of the squat where strength is needed also.  Chops and lifts with bands is average at best.  Bodyweight gurus preach natural movement but forget the the laws of load progression.  Bodyweight gurus are a classic example of a group that pigeon holes their training.  You’ll see a bodyweight guru try and make something out of nothing.  For instance, using a pair of chairs to perform inverted rows (aka: body rows).  Dangerous ladies and gentlemen.

While I am in the process of writing multiple books that are centered around one piece of equipment or one style of training, I also recommend the fusion of many different methods for building a high powered body that is as lean and strong as it is functional.

I love variety without compromising direction in training, and I think that you can have both in a non-hardcore systemized kind of approach.  I love the fusion of methods.  Something great can be extracted from all of the aforementioned methods.  Believe that.  You just have to look hard enough.

Again, I have learned something from all of the arenas that I discussed above.  Sticking to any program for a respectable length of time is going to get you great results.  It all depends on what you want.

Always remember, regardless of what you choose as a vehicle for changing your body physically for aesthetics or appearance (or both):

A shitty program executed to perfection is better than a perfect program executed like shit.

Cheers and happy end of Tuesday!



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