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If I Could Do One Thing For The Fitness Industry

December 4, 2011 05:00 PM

DanJohn artcle fitnessindustry 
 
If I could do one thing for the fitness industry, it would be to give some clarity to what people want. Because of fitness magazines at the checkout counter at the grocery store and a myriad of devices to try and buy from television commercials that promise "abs" in a few weeks, (you do KNOW that you already have them…right?), I have been besieged by people in the last year who are convinced that there is always greener grass in the other training hall’s pasture.
 
For most people, they don’t want to hear my wonderful insights about fat loss, discus throwing, mobility work or longterm approaches to health and fitness. They want to hear about Navy SEALs, NFL players and fighters. I’m not sure whom to blame, but if I hear one more guy tell me he wants to look like "Brad Pitt in ‘Fight Club,’" I may lose whatever patience I have left in this world.
 
So, in about two decades the industry went from being all about spandex leggings and headbands dancing to rock and roll to training like Spartan warriors and Super Bowl Champs. That’s what we call "a bit of a leap!"
 
Oh, and, if you don’t mind, would you find me program that can get me to look like Brad in less than six weeks?
 
In Frank Herbert’s wonderful book, Dune, there is a great line that I don’t repeat often enough:
 
"The Fremen were supreme in that quality the ancients called "spannungsbogen," which is the self-imposed delay between desire for a thing and the act of reaching out to grasp that thing."
 
By the time I get to most athletes and people, they have a lot of mileage in the weight room or aerobic studio, but usually don’t know how to squat. They may have a big bench, but couldn’t hinge a hip to save their life. Yet, the goal that they tell me they have is often one of "big ones:" the NFL, the SEALs, or a TV deal in a collision sport.
 
Pavel and I call the collision sports "Quadrant II." It is rare to meet someone who is at the top of the heap in these areas. The number of qualities (those things like speed, size, strength, mobility, technique and all the rest) that it takes to even participate in QII is nearly everything and level of mastery of each of these qualities is sneaking up on world class in every example.
 
And, that takes years. Probably DECADES to get there!
 
So, to make it at the highest end of collision sports (including the military, the epitome of collision sports), one has to take the time to walk up the stairs of mastery in MANY different disciplines. It is not something you can get "instantly in two weeks." Moreover, there are three overriding points that demand your time and insights: Attention to Detail, Shrink the Gap, and "Who’s Next?"
 
Casey Sutera, one of the fine young coaches I work with in the weight room, came from an outstanding Division One football team. They were taught sprint work, agility work, every form of lifting and much, much more. He taught me a few important concepts worthy of note from his experience:
 
Attention to detail. I love this concept. It is one of the cornerstones of the RKC and, to be honest, every quality organization. If there is one lesson I have learned about QII coaching it is this: it always comes down to the little things. The best of the best programs insist on the little things, for example, today we wear the blue tops and the white shorts. If someone shows up in blue shorts and a white top, we punish them. Why? Well, I don’t know why. But I know this: under pressure, under stress, we revert to our training. If any aspect of our training is slip slap, our response to pressure will be the same. NFL games are usually decided by five plays. Often, it is the infamous stat "Missed Opportunity to Make A Big Play" that decides whether a team lives on the bottom or wins the Super Bowl. Big Plays come from "luck," but it takes a lot of discipline, work and effort to get "lucky" at the high end of sports.
 
Shrink the Gap. I love this concept. Casey’s program used it as a way to relate the idea that the athletes with the lowest commitment to excellence had to be brought up to the athletes with the highest levels. That "gap" is wide in many things. The movie Office Space is a wonderfully funny look at the restaurant and cubicle world, but the same gap is evident even in something that seems wonderfully self-motivating like elite team sports. I took this concept into the weight room. I began to look at our award boards and our "big lift" charts and noticed something interesting: our championship teams certainly were present in the lists, but our years with problems were actually better represented!
 
I have coached sophomore boys (age 15) who have benched 385. I have had two deadlift over 600 and another boy did a double from the floor with a 315 clean. These are outstanding lifts for any age at any time. But, to win in QII, which is almost universally team sports, "everybody" has to be strong. To "Shrink the Gap," we looked back over our standards and realized that we seemed to do best when the bulk of the teams were at certain levels. For years, I had felt that when a boy can clean 200, he is strong enough for any varsity play. We changed the numbers around just a little bit as we have bumper plates with different colors, the 45s are black, the 35s are green and the 25s are red. So, it makes a very colorful day when we line the lifts up for the "Big Blue Club." The lifts are these:
 
Power Clean 205
Front Squat 205
Back Squat 255
Deadlift 315
Power Clean and Jerk 165
Military Press 115
One-Armed Bench Press 32 kilo kettlebell (5 right and 5 Left)
 
Most people ask about the bench press. If a boy can clean 205, rarely will they not be able to bench press it, too. My numbers may seem low in some areas (deadlift) but based on my discussions with Ethan Reeve of Wake Forest (who has a brilliant Gold Standard for collegiate athletes). Also, note that the weights are all bumper plate selections, the 165, for example is a 35 and a 25 on both sides. It certainly makes things a little safer and simpler to monitor.
 
When you have the bulk of the team on the Big Blue Club, you tend to meet your goals. It is possible to shrink the gap by simply raising the bar up a little for everyone.
 
Who’s Next? Finally, a not so nice point: in QII, if you don’t cut it, you’re cut. Team sports are always looking for someone faster, bigger and better than you. It’s not just a Hollywood movie cliché, it is the reality of team sport.
 
The raging popularity of MMA and UFC has made many people believe that the way to fight is to work on everything all the time. Guys are racing marathons, doing yoga, learning the O lifts and doing every feasible bodybuilding move. But, they aren’t getting on the mats. And, when they do, they get schooled. Fighting arts probably have many built in qualities, but to get them you should be on the mat.
 
Recently, I was told a secret from someone who is on TV a lot fighting in the cage. He nodded to me at the end of my workshop and told me: "You got it right. It’s on the mat. Get strong as fast as you can (Easy Strength?), then get on the mat."
 
Am I trying to get you to play in the NFL or become a Spartan? Well, if it is your goal set, I think I can help. But, for most people, we need to stop and think clearly about how the Strength Coach can help you. And, honestly, it is this simple:
 
The Strength Coach can make you stronger!
 
And, as my good friend Brett Jones, Master RKC, always reminds me, "Strength is like the glass. Everything else (all other qualities) is the liquid that goes into the glass." The stronger you are, as Josh Hillis notes time and time again, the easier it is to lose fat.
 
So, if you have a simple goal, like fat loss or throwing the discus far, focus more on simply getting stronger and we can improve your chances of getting there.
 
And, happily, of all the qualities, getting strong is, well, Easy. That’s why we called the book, "Easy Strength." Don’t get angry when you discover how little it takes to get stronger and meet most of your goals.
 

 
 
Dan John, Senior RKC has been teaching and coaching for well over thirty years. He is the former Strength Coach and Head Track and Field Coach at Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper, Utah He remains a full-time on-line religious studies instructor for Columbia College of Missouri and contributing writer to Men’s Health. In his athletic career, among many other championships and records, Dan has won the Master Pleasanton Highland Games twice, American Masters Discus Championships several times, the National Masters Weightlifitng Championship once and holds the American Record in the Weight Pentathlon. Visit his website www.danjohn.net
 
 

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