I have an issue with so many “absolutes” in our industry. We are all unique beings, so what works well for one may not work well for another. Create appropriate goals, personalize and individualize a program based on your own needs and goals, and then get to work.
If folks talk in “absolutes” and “definites” and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I wrote a brief article a couple years ago titled, “My Answer To Everything“, where I talked about the fact that each and every one of us is unique and we all have our own imbalances and asymmetries. Because of this, a cookie-cutter program will not work for everyone. Sure, you can get some great results following a template…like this GREAT ONE (sorry, shameless plug!), but if you want to continue to grow, improve, and get consistent life-long results, you need to adapt and make necessary changes along the way. Fitness and workout programs shouldn’t just be measured in 4 or 8 week time-frames; they should keep your short-term and long-term goals in mind. They are ultimately part of a healthy lifestyle and that lifestyle should last a lifetime.
What am I talking about? I’m saying we need to look at the “big picture” when working with clients and athletes. Keep their goals in mind and don’t get caught up in all the confusion along the way. Keep their goal the goal (hat tip to Dan John). I believe there is a lot of gray area in our field, and this causes a TON of confusion for both trainers and clients. One trainer told me this while another one told me the exact opposite…truth is, both options might get you to that end result. If a client wants to get stronger and you ask 10 coaches for a 4-week routine…how many different routines do you think you’d get? I’d say 10. I’m sure there will be some similarities…deadlifts, squats, presses…but I think it’s safe to say that each routine will be different and each one could be effective and help that client. And that’s a big reason why I hate absolutes…if I’m told I HAVE TO squat to get stronger legs but I just really hate squatting; am I shit out of luck?! Would deadlifts and lunges not get the job done?? Of course they would. There’s more than one way to skin a cat (whatever that means). This issue happens with so many different aspects of our industry…from programming to equipment to nutrition to supplements, etc. And each one of these has layers as well. Each one is a rabbit hole of confusion and, a lot of time, frustration for the client.
I’m definitely no expert, but this food topic is probably the most confusing of all. The more I read and learn, the more confused I get. Is paleo good or bad? Is vegetarian the way to go? Fats were bad but now they are good and now carbs are the bad guy?! And every week there is a new “diet” coming out that will be THE ONE…the one that will finally get you the body you want.
From a “big picture” viewpoint, could we all agree, as my colleague Sean Croxton says to, “Just Eat Real Food“? I hope so. Stay away from the processed crap and the ingredients you can’t pronounce, and you are already moving in the right direction.
I’m fine if clients want to follow a paleo diet, a veggie diet, or something in between as long as it makes general sense. I definitely give some recommendations and suggestions on what I support but ultimately they need to find out what works best for them. I’m also more than happy to recommend more qualified folks to my clients if they want additional resources. I’m not one of those trainers who gives advice he’s not authorized to provide. Pet peeve.
2. “Programming” (I’ll use that term loosely)
Like I mentioned in the beginning, there are many different ways to get to the end result. Will 5/3/1, Westside, or doing Crossfit WODs get you strong? Well…all three probably will. It depends on the individual. Take that client from where they are on day 1, understand their goals and their personality, and provide them with a healthy and effective way to get better. And, with all this, keep the big picture in mind. Is this client a desk jockey with a bum shoulder who has a wife and 3 kids at home? Sure, overhead presses and snatches might help him with his “I want to look better at the beach” goal…but, there are probably other effective methods that are much safer too.
Adapt To The Client
Getting back to the point of this piece…In order to keep the big picture in perspective, I think we must adapt to our clients and athletes.
~ If I’m working with a 70-year old gal who is simply with me a couple days a week to move, stretch a little, and have someone to talk to; do I need to tell her that we are working on her “lower trapezius activation” today? Or can I simply make sure she has proper form and talk to her about her day?
~ If I’m working with a high school athlete who is interested in the exercise science field, I may explain to him that we are working on his “thoracic spine extension” instead of just saying his “upper back”. I may ask him additional questions about the spine and get him more involved in the programming to help him learn more about the process.
~ Lastly, if I’m working with a stressed out lawyer who is coming in to unwind from the pressures of a hectic day, should I tell him we are “going heavy” or ask him what “90% of his 1RM” is? Chances are, he just wants to move some weight and get after it!
I’m just saying that we don’t need to throw out the 50-cent words to every client we work with. In fact, it may turn some clients off. If a client or athlete wants the science and wants to learn more about the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ of exercises, muscles, and programming, then by all means, lay it on them. Know your client. Know how to communicate to them in an efficient and effective way.
Reel It In
I realize this post was a bit of a ramble-fest and I went a little all over the place. My point is this; know what your client wants and know how to communicate with them. This is all part of the “big picture”. Just because the textbook or certification you took told you that you have to spot your client this way or teach the exercise that way; doesn’t mean that particular way will work for each and every client. As long as you keep rule #1 in mind, “Do no harm”, then it’s ok to stray from the path a bit. Take each client as an individual and do what works best for them. I mean, what are we doing as trainers and coaches?? We are helping people. We are motivating, educating, and keeping people accountable. Do what’s best for them and get them to their goal.
About Doug Balzarini
Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is the owner of DB Strength, which provides fitness training, education, and resources. He is also the strength and conditioning coach for Alliance MMA where he works with UFC Champion Dominick Cruz, Bellator Champion Michael Chandler, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Ross Pearson, Alexander Gustafsson, and more. Prior to starting his own business, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).
He has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU and has obtained multiple certifications including ACE, NSCA-CSCS, MMA-CC, TFW Level 1, TRX instructor training, RIP training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, and FMS training. He has produced his 2 DVD projects on strength training for combat athletes, appeared in many fitness videos and articles, and was a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” FOX TV show in 2012.
For more information please visit www.dbstrength.com.