Quick Thoughts on Group Workouts

I’m unwinding from a group workout that went slightly awry this evening.  As I eat my Mom’s left over pasta and drink a protein shake, I’d like to share some quick thoughts on what went well, and what could go better next time.

You need time to learn new exercises. There’s a learning curve to new exercises and you can’t just break them out during work sets of a new exercise.  In the case of this evenings workout, this is largely my fault, as I invited two guys to join BRosen and I in our usual Monday evening madness.  I believe that almost every exercise was new to them, and it was wrong for them to be performing the same exercises.  Part of this is my fault, part of is on them.  While I encourage people to learn more functional exercises, I don’t recommend randomly throwing them into your program on a whim.  Take the time to learn the movements, say in a warm-up or after your hard work sets, and then start incorporating it once you feel comfortable with the movement and your proficiency increases.  While I should have held them off on these new exercises, it’s an individual lifters responsibility to choose the weights to use on any given exercise.  (The new exercises were counter-movement jumps, trap bar deadlifts, and barbell split squats, if you were wondering.)  If you’re brand new to something, you need to control your ego and take an easy day; don’t worry about what other people load for their work sets.  It’s going to be a lot more beneficial for you to strip everything off the bar and just work the pattern then it is for you to grind through a set with piss-poor form, risking injury and getting minimal training effect.  Take away point:  Take the time to learn new exercises, and only institute them in your program when you’re comfortable enough to use them.

You can't learn new exercises over night!

Adjust the bar weight for your work sets. To me, this is a no-brainer, but I’ve seen it happen time and time again; people who are usually intelligent forget simple mathematics, and fail to adjust the weight used for any given set.  If you’re deciding on weight to use, make sure that it’s appropriate for you, don’t just use what your training partner(s) are using.  For example, if I had the opportunity to train with a 600lb squatter, I wouldn’t be able to make the big jumps in the warm-up that he would make: I’d have to take smaller jumps to accommodate for the differences in percentage.  200lbs is only a third of his max squat, but it may be half of mine; we can’t both use that to warm-up.  I’m not sure what drives people to forget about these differences, but it’s just as dangerous as attempting to load up a brand-new exercise; if you do it wrong, you can find yourself sore for days, or seriously injure yourself.  It’s one thing to use your training partners to push you towards your goals and help motivate you to hit new PR’s, but there’s a fine line between being smart and being stupid.  If one guy pulls 315lbs for 10 and the next pulls it for 3, the training effect is going to be completely different, and they’ll get two different results.  If you’re working inside a set frame work of sets and reps, it’s best to abide by that and change the bar weight to accommodate this framework.  Again, this is a case of checking your ego and making sure you’re doing things the right way.

Don't be this guy; adjust the bar weight!

Training environment is paramount. The best written program in the world will suck if you execute it with 50% commitment, and a poorly written program can work extremely well if you put in 110% effort.  I’m finding more and more posts regarding training environment, and I believe it can be the most significant factor in your success (or failure.)  Tonight was a hectic night, and 4 people on the same piece of equipment may have been too much.  Despite this, we should have all worked hard, but the group dynamic didn’t allow for this.  There were too many wasted sets, too much talking, too many questions asked.  There’s something to be set for quiet, intense training sessions.  When everybody works as a team and keeps the tempo moving along, everyone succeeds;  Too much down time and chit-chat take away from everybody’s experience.  The training environment starts on the inside, and you need to share that intensity with your group; if your mind set is to work hard, and the people around you share that mindset, you’re set up for success.  However, if some people are their to train, some people want to exercise, and some people just need to be active, then no one will be happy with the results of the workout.  You don’t need to have exactly the same goals, but make sure that you surround yourself with people who will push you to work your hardest, every workout, and keep those intense people around you.  If they don’t let you slip, you’ll return the favor, and you’ll both succeed.

If this is your idea of serious, you need to try harder.

Group workouts can work out really well, but they can also suck if people aren’t on the same page.  Ideally, people should be well versed in the exercises selected, and their mental intensity should be the same.  In the case of this evenings workout, we weren’t on the same page with these, and it effected everybody.  Hopefully, as movement patterns are ingrained and we become more proficient, we can all achieve better results from the same exercises, and dial in our focus.

BRosen and I just started the last week of our two-a-day program, and while I’m having an absolute blast, it definitely takes a lot out of you.  I’ve timed a deload (lighter) week with the beginning of the Spring semester, and I’m looking forward to getting stronger and more powerful.  It’ll also be nice to do some sport-specific stuff as golf season approaches.  While tonight’s group workout wasn’t the best, I am looking forward to Sundays from now on; I’m planning on doing my max effort lower body work on these days, and I’m excited to have a good group of guys to push me (and spot me.)  Training with other people is a great way to stay motivated and reach your goals, but learn from my mistake; make sure that everybody is on the same page before your training gets underway.

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