When Bad Things Happen to Good People Who Know Better
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?
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!