When Bad Things Happen to Good People Who Know Better

Share This:

Note from TG:  A little head’s up before we begin:  The question below is long, but I wanted to include it in its’ entirety because, well, just read it.  Lets just say that if, by the end of the question, you’re not facepalming to some capacity, you’re a better human being than myself.

Q:  I’ve been a trainer for about 3 years, but have been out of work for the past couple months.  I just got turned down for a training position here at the [TG:  I went a head and deleted the actual name of the university] recreational facility.

The person I interviewed with is actually my boss who I teach a TRX class for and she told me a few things that came up during my on floor practical interview.  My ‘client’ was training for a triathlon and was currently biking/swimming/running 3x a week each, and had zero weight room time.  So I figured this guy needed a little strength training.

All necessary other steps were taken before hitting the floor:  intake, assessment etc.  I took the client through a movement prep/dynamic warm-up session, and did some rotary stability drills as he tested weakest for those in the assessment.  Then I took him through alternating sets for goblet squats/OH presses, RDLs/pull ups and reverse lunges/standing 1 arm cable rows for three sets or 10 -12 reps each.

My reasoning here is that he hasn’t been weight training recently and I wanted to cover as many movements as possible to supplement the huge amount of volume he was doing with his biking, swimming and running.  My boss saw a problem with the amount of reps I was using, thinking they were too low, and would have liked to see me do some exercises simulating a bike swim or run movement.

My argument was that he was getting enough repetition doing those activities and just needed to get stronger, period.  I used the bigger motor in a car analogy, but maybe it didn’t take the way it was supposed to.

I understand there are probably a few tweaks as far as exercise selection and such go, but is there a completely different approach I should have taken in this situation from a theory standpoint?

Summarizing, I felt like this interview process had nothing to do with any of those things as it came down to more of a different view in philosophies.  Of course there probably were other factors that existed, but this seemed to be the biggest hang-up.

Is it as simple as this maybe wasn’t the right place for me, or are there other things I should be doing to ensure that setbacks are kept to a minimum?

Thanks, Chris

A:  Chris, wow, I don’t even know where to begin with this.  First off, I’m sorry that things didn’t work out for you, and that you had to go through that experience.  It’s a shame that this woman is in a position where she’s able to make snap judgements on one’s ability and expertise, when she’s clearly out of the loop with current research, woefully misinformed, and obviously an uppity bitch.

From a theoretical standpoint, you’re rationale on why this gentleman should have included more strength training was/is spot on.  As I’ve noted on numerous occasions here on this blog endurance athletes would be well served to drop some of the crazy volume they put themselves through, and instead, replace it with traditional strength training to not only improve performance, but to also offset many of the structural imbalances that they accumulate along the way.

If I had to bulletpoint my thoughts on this, it may look something like this:

  • In THIS study, the intervention group all had increases in strength, without adding any mass (body-weight). This is an important distinction and something that endurance athletes need to hear. Getting stronger, doesn’t necessarily mean getting bigger.
  • Furthermore, outside of the obvious (improved performance), increasing strength also has an often overlooked side benefit. As muscles (active restraints) get stronger, it’s less perceived stress by the passive restraints (bone, ligaments, etc). This goes a long ways as far as keeping you healthy and preventing all of those nagging injuries in the first place.
  • Increases in force development will undoubtedly equate to improvement in performance. The more force an athlete can generate into the ground (or pedal, or water), the more force said athlete will generate to propel him/her forward. To do this, one needs to lift heavy stuff.  Last time I checked, the objective of a race is to see who can finish the fastest, not who can go the longest.
  • And, as the study linked above notes, the intervention group improved their running economy by 5%. To put this into perspective, that’s roughly twelve minutes shaved off of a four-hour marathon; all of this without having to log more mileage. 
  • And, to drive the point home even further, it’s been well documented in the research that the biggest indicator of whether or not someone will get injured (whether we’re talking shin splints, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures, you name it) is the total mileage he or she accumulates.  Put another way, the more you run/bike/swim, the more likely you are to break down.  Not always, of course – but a lot.

If you need more of a real-world example read THIS.

Moving on, your boss’ assertion that you should have mimicked more biking, running, or swimming movements into the routine is borderline asinine.  Why?  So he can just feed into the numerous postural imbalances and weaknesses he already has?

Using this logic, I guess the only way to train MMA fighters is by nixing the squats and opting for more swift roundhouse kicks to the head.  That’s specific!  Or, we should include more of these into our programming for baseball players:

Listen, people get enough “sport specific training” by simply playing their respective sports.  We don’t need to include more of these movements in the weightroom.

In the end, I have to say she was wrong….by a landslide.  Based off what you described, you handled this particular client about as well as you could have.  You assessed, saw some glaring issues, recognized that he was weak and didn’t move well, and addressed them.  You had his best interests in mind.  Apparently, she did not.  FAIL!

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

Share This Post:


Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

Comments for This Entry

  • Monica

    I agree with Tony. Chris, you've done the best you could. However your boss couldn't see that. It's her loss. You'll find a better place to work. Good luck!

    April 6, 2011 at 7:38 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chris

    I was expecting this to be a case of "bad trainer writing of his own unconscience incompotence" but the tables were turned! Bad boss lady displaying incompetence unconsciencely. This is one of those tales that gets to be a little disheartening being in this field where those in charge have clearly stopped the learning process (in a university setting no less!). I sometimes think the field is getting better and then I stop and look around at my gym and think, "Nope, still 1991 aorund here." I think it goes back to what I read in every book/ blog or listen to on every podcast or phone call, "those reading or listening aren't the ones who really need to be hearing this but how do we contact those who aren't?"

    April 6, 2011 at 7:53 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chris Krattiger

    That guy in the baseball specific video wasn't serious...right? That was absurd.

    April 6, 2011 at 8:30 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dean Somerset

    Hey Tony, here's a few other research gems in favour of strength training for endurance: Pavvo,1999: Replacing up to 32% of cardio volume with Explosive power exercises showed improvement in performance & run economy (3%). No loss of aerobic capacity, with gains in maximal running velocity. Mikkola, 2007: replacing running altogether with explosive power drills for 8 weeks resulted in no increase in injuries, no decrease in VO2 max, and greater force/time curve production (more power) My runners don't up their mileage

    April 6, 2011 at 8:59 am | Reply to this comment

  • Nock

    Great answer Tony....... @Chris......I will give you my own experience here. I was one of those athletes Tony talked about on the last article link that he posted on this blog and believe me by avoiding the weights and literally the weight room as much as I can ended my poor little pro-career short with a massive injury. I'm saying this to show you that I don't think your approach was wrong I think the place wasn't a good fit for you.

    April 6, 2011 at 9:20 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sean

    I couldn't agree more with this. I have trained on my college triathlon team for two years and kept weight training HEAVY (probably no more than 6 reps per set) with deadlifts, squats and pull ups. My coach always told me to stop or I was going to keep bulking up and even went as far as giving me the nickname "muscles". You know what happened? Unlike the rest of my team, I didn't get any overuse injuries, dropped a full minute off of my 5k time and didn't look like an emaciated mess doing it. So yeah, that lady is nuts.

    April 6, 2011 at 9:46 am | Reply to this comment

  • Jonathan Pope

    Great answer Tony. I completely agree. I train several road cyclists; all of which have seen massive improvements in performance simply by cutting volume, focusing on getting strong, improving movement, and doing some high intensity interval work instead of slogging for hours on the bike. Also, their low back and knee pain is gone as well. I am also personally training to do a couple 100 mile road bike races along with them to show that even though I spend a fraction of the time on the bike compared to them, I can keep up with them by training intelligently. I must admit that I also enjoy the looks of amazement as I chug up mountain passes at 210 pounds on my 15 year old P.O.S. bike right past folks on their $5k carbon fiber bike.

    April 6, 2011 at 10:25 am | Reply to this comment

  • R Smith

    Just wow! But as jaw-dropping as the question itself is the fact that there are FAR too many "trainers" who think the exact same way as this lady. Being in Florida, where guys golf year-round, I see the trainers taking clients through tons of exercises that mimic the motions of golf. I always think, "Would an OCCASSIONAL lunge, squat, deadlift or Pallof Press really kill them?"

    April 6, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Chris

    Hey guys thanks for the support. It's nice to know people that you've never met share the same thoughts as you. And thanks a bunch for running this Tony, its much appreciated.

    April 6, 2011 at 7:49 pm | Reply to this comment

  • frey

    I agree with what's going on in this post and in the comments, but I don't see any reason to broadly dismiss the value of high volume endurance training. If you're talking cycling, there's simply no way to build the capacity to ride a fast 100+ mile ride without putting in long, steady training mileage. The problem athletes run into - what sets people up for overuse injuries - is mixing speedwork with long, steady miles. A well designed strength training program is an important piece a well designed endurance training program. But, this doesn't diminish the importance of long, steady work. And, one thing we can all agree on is that the baseball-video guy should be jailed.

    April 6, 2011 at 7:59 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Stephane

    If I may pipe in a bit... I train a ton of athletes that need a very high level of endurance (i.e. specialized military units). One of the most important factors to having them perform at an extremely high level is focusing on getting them strong as hell. I've seen injury rates dramatically decrease, while performance goes through the roof. So Chris, you were right on the money! The good thing about your situation is that it's not fun to work for someone who's a moron. Either way good luck!

    April 7, 2011 at 6:25 am | Reply to this comment

  • Will

    A great article in this months Strength and Conditioning Journal By Anthony Turner about how replacing 1/3 of endurance training with strength training will increase aerobic capacity.....

    April 7, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Reply to this comment

  • frey

    @ will ... most articles on endurance training and strength training follow this same pattern. Take athletes who are already endurance trained, replace some of their training with strength training, then show that their endurance levels are maintained or improved in some way. However, I have never seen a study where athletes have achieved high levels of endurance fitness by strength training with only moderate levels of endurance work. Studies such as Turners, in my opinion, only show that cutting back on an endurance athlete's volume puts him/her into a minor taper, so, in the short term, the athlete's performance may increase on whatever measure is used to test "aerobic capacity". The truth is, while an athlete may be able to maintain aerobic strength, no body built a high level of aerobic capacity without a lot of aerobic work.

    April 7, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment