I do not know if it is the teacher in me, but I have always been more fascinated with questions than answers.  Answers are so final.  Questions can produce so many possibilities.  As a strength and conditioning coach, I exist in the realm of possibility every day.  Few things make me happier and fulfilled than seeing an athlete question and confront his or her own possibilities.

  • “Should I put more weight on the barbell today?”
  • “Do I think I need that extra band for my pull-ups today?”

These questions are both scary and exciting for any new ter.  In fact, finding the answers to these questions are what drive us to the gym each and every day.

I would argue, however, that there are two simpler yet infinitely more important questions that every ter, both new and old alike should be asking themselves frequently.

  1. What do I want from my fitness program?
  2. What do I need from my fitness program?

Every ter’s first step needs to begin with some solid introspection.  The journey to achieving one’s goals is a long, arduous, and painstaking one and if the destination and the means of getting there are not clear, the trip to fulfilling your goals might never end.

Let's face it, most of us will never have the physique or capabilities of Rich Froning...NEVER.  Set realistic goals.

Let’s face it, most of us will never have the physique or capabilities of Rich Froning…NEVER. Set realistic goals.

Many of us have heard that was this killer way to get in shape.  Super intense workouts that leave you gasping for air and aching for days, that is the way.   You’ve seen people hoist crazy amounts of weight over their heads or fly through the air on gymnastics rings.  You’ve seen those rock hard abs and tight butts.  You want in.  Let’s, however, return to those two guiding questions.

You might want to do all of the cool things in , like muscle ups or snatches.   Even simpler, you might want to lose weight….FAST.  Great!  You’ve just identified your wants!  Here’s where the plot thickens, though.  Do those wants align with your needs?   To achieve any lasting goals it will be  your needs which dictate the direction your training program will take.

Are you training for the CF Games or do you want to be able to keep up with your grandkids?  Different performance goals demand different training paths.

Are you training for the CF Games or do you want to be able to keep up with your grandkids? Different performance goals demand different training paths.

Let’s take “Susan.”  She wants to lose weight.  Lots of it.  In fact she wants it gone by yesterday.  She’s heard that by doing , the unwanted weight will just melt right off.  To be honest, any structured workout program will work for Susan in the short term.  She could do the Shake Weight every day and lose weight!  So it’s no stretch of the imagination that people who have been sedentary for quite some time come to and make tremendous transformations, no matter the quality of the programming.  The only problem is how long can those improvements be sustained until training plateaus or, even worse, injuries or illness set in?  Not very long, if a full assessment of her current physical ready state does not occur.

One of Susan’s needs is understanding how the weight gain occurred.  Has it been poor nutrition, few hours of sleep, inability to manage stress, or a combination of lifestyle issues?  Addressing these needs are paramount before the first barbell has been lifted or the first second of a conditioning workout has transpired.

Next, Susan needs to identify the weak areas in her physical capabilities.  Here at Steelworks , clients have the option of a personalized assessment that identifies their physical limitations.  Is body fat localized in a specific region of the body?  For instance, higher body fat percentages located near the belly button in relation to other areas reveal elevated cortisol levels i.e. stress levels.  This fact dictates a certain type of program.  Is performance affected by restrictions in fascia, joint capsules, muscle?  Does the restriction occur in the ankles, hips, shoulders, etc?  Does Susan have a low level of body awareness as she moves?  Are Susan’s performance outputs affected by issues of muscular stamina, cardiovascular endurance, or another biomotor ability (speed, power, strength, balance, coordination, agility, flexibility)?  Once these questions have been asked and Susan’s needs have been addressed, we can then begin identifying the path of her training program.

So let’s say that Susan’s assessment reveals a high body fat score near her belly button in relation to other body areas.  For starters, there are some lifestyle issues that need to be addressed outside of the gym such as stress management and sleep.  Next, any workout that is going to douse her body with cortisol is something that should be avoided.  Therefore, Susan is not best served by a 12 minute ass kicking “metcon” that leaves her in a heaping pile of sweat, vomit, and confusion.  In fact, what Susan would need are not typical workouts at all, but rather something that looks like this:

A1.  Close Grip Bench Press 30X1 tempo
5,5,5,5  Rest one minute.
A2. Single Leg Split Squats 3121 tempo
5,5,5,5  Rest one minute after both legs have been completed.
B. 10 Min Every Minute on the Minute
5 Strict Pullups with a 30X1 tempo.
Row 500 meters.  Paced.  Consistent.
X6  Work-Rest 1:1.

A.  Single Leg KB Deadlift 3121
5,5,5,5  Rest one minute after both legs have been completed.
B1. Weighted Dips 2111 tempo.  Rest 30 seconds.
B2. 150 m Farmer’s Carry 24 kilo kettlebells in each hand.  Rest 30 seconds.
B3. Stir the Pots 10 in each direction. Rest 1 minute.
3 min AMRAP
10 Wall Balls (10#)
10 Pushups.
x5 Rest two minutes between sets.
*80-90% Max Effort.  Finish workout feeling like you could do more.

A.  Press 31X1 tempo
5,4,3,5,4,3  Rest 1 minute
B. Kettlebell Rows 3111 tempo
8,8,8,8 Rest 1 minute after both arms have been completed.
C. Accumulate three minutes in the bottom of a goblet squat (16 kilos)
30 seconds on / off
Bear Crawls
Airdyne for Cals
Walking Lunges
x2 rounds x 2 sets.  Rest two minutes between sets.

Why choose these combinations of movements?  For starters each of these movements work larger muscle groups and therefore have a greater bang for one’s buck at producing more of the muscle building hormone, testosterone.  Susan’s focus should be less about losing weight and more about gaining muscle.  Higher levels of testosterone floating about the body instead of cortisol (long term elevation of this hormone results in muscle degradation) will increase the chance for muscle to be generated and as a result more fat to eventually be shed.

These movements are also very low in skill demand.  Susan’s not trying to qualify for the Games.  As a result, there are better and safer ways of helping her achieve her goals that to start asking her to perform snatches (though after she develops the requisite strength and coordination, I hope she reconsiders getting after some weightlifting!  I LURVE ME SOME WEIGHTLIFTING!!  :))

The general theme of Susan’s workouts does not have to be extreme or crazy.  On the contrary, after clearly identifying her needs she requires consistent less technically demanding work that doesn’t turn into a shit-show.

So, before you start your journey into , ask yourself what it is you want from a fitness program and then find a coach and a program that will help build you a bridge across the waters of laziness and excuses to help you safely reach your lifestyle or performance goals.