Programming Faux Pas: Pairing Blunders
Peanut Butter and Jelly
Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
Beef and Red Wine
The Situation and General Douchebaggery
< ==== Kyra Gracie and My Dreams
All of the above, as different as they are, tend to be pairings that make sense. When you think of one, it’s hard not to think of the other.
Writing programs, however – whether for a deconditioned weekend warrior, a 14 year old freshman in high school, or an elite athlete – lends itself to a wide variety of pairings that just don’t make any sense.
The more programs you write, the better you get (obviously); but in addition to that, and probably of more relevance, the more programs you write, you kind of get a “feel” for what works and what’s utter crap.
Speaking personally, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve programmed something which, in theory, looked good on paper, only to scratch it altogether once I witnessed how much of a walking ball of fail it was trying to implement it with my clients or athletes.
Having said that, below are some random, acute programming variables that in my experience, don’t make a lot of sense. Are they revolutionary? Hell no. But, in the end, I hope they at least get people to start thinking more critically about what they program and WHY.
1. High Reps and Beginners – I get why most trainers and coaches feel that using high(er) rep protocols are the way to go when working with a newbie. You want to build tissue tolerance and strengthen the soft tissue – namely tendons and ligaments. Thing is though, oftentimes, once a beginner gets past the 5-8 rep range, technique usually starts to get a little dicey. And that’s putting it lightly.
I rarely (if ever) go above the five rep range when teaching a beginner how to squat, bench, or deadlift. Accessory movements (later in the training session) are completely different, and I’ll definitely go with a higher reps then. But, all told, when I’m teaching someone a more complex and neurally challenging movement like a deadlift for instance, I want to ensure that every rep is perfect.
And the only way I can ensure that is by keeping the reps (and load) low.
I’m sorry, but having a complete beginner who has the movement quality of a pregnant pig perform 15-20 rep sets is not going to accomplish anything remotely beneficial. All that’s going to do is engrain piss-poor motor patterns, and in all likelihood, result in something bad happening.
What’s more, and this is a REAL pet peeve of mine: anyone who calls their program a “strength training” program and it includes 20 rep sets of anything is a complete moron. That’s really all I have to say on that. Stop it. Now.
2. (Front) Squats and (Horizontal) Pulling Exercises – getting a little more detailed, this is one pairing that I see a lot of trainers make. Lets say I have someone performing some front squats. While front squats are a fantastic exercise that targets the lower body, what often gets the shaft is the fact that they’re also hammering the upper back as well.
Because the bar is anteriorly loaded in FRONT of the body (and not the back), there’s a pretty signifcant anti-flexion component that forces that upper back muscles and stabilizers to go into overdrive.
Why, then, would you want to pair this exercise with a pulling exercise (like seated rows) which will only fatigue the upper back muscles even more?
Instead, if you’re going to pair this exercise with anything, I’d do one of the following:
- Push-up variation
- Filler exercise – some sort of low grade mobility or activation drill that they can do while resting. Something along the lines of a supine bridge with reach perhaps?
Note: yes, that’s THE Eric Cressey riding a foam rolling pony to tooltown.
3. Deadlifts and Any Exercise That Challenges Grip – Deadlifts (an exercise that requires a lot of grip strength, and is generally the limiting factor for many trainees) paired with another exercise that requires a tremendous amount of grip strength = not very smart. Granted, with more advanced trainees there’s a little more wiggle room. But for a beginner? Not so much.
Much like the example given above, I’m more prone to pair deadlifts with some sort of filler exercise or maybe some core exercise like Pallof Presses or something like prone plate switches:
To be clear, this isn’t to say that pairing two exercises that challenge the grip is wrong – but, in most cases, it’s just not ideal.
4. Alicia Keys and Swizz Beats – okay, okay, not an exercise pairing, but something that’s perplexing nonetheless.
I don’t get it: on one end you have a guy who’s a world reknowned record producer and makes more money in his sleep than most people make in a year. And on the other, you have a “kind of a big deal” strength coach who drives a Hyundai Elantra and can recite the entire dialogue of The Empire Strikes Back…….in Klingon.
Tomato <—-> Tomahto. Frankly, I don’t get it. Seems like a clear cut choice to me.
Have any pairings you feel don’t make sense? Share them below!