I believe that I work at one of the best fitness facilities in the world. I also train at a commercial gym.
It’s in vogue in strength and conditioning to lambast the uneducated or ineffective, and I do it in good humor. Training at a commercial gym that has a meatheady atmosphere can definitely keep me in touch with what’s typical of strength training. It certainly keeps me away from the Ivory Tower of Training, but I can’t help feeling like Curt and Ernie sometimes.
In gyms I’ve trained at in the past, the largest disconnect that I observed was poor exercise selection. There were lots of curls, and not a lot of chin-ups. I don’t have a problem with curls if you’re nailing your chin-ups, but get solidify strength before you sprinkle in some extras!
Things are different at this gym. People here lift. At any given time there are people who squat, bench, deadlift, overhead press, bent over row, chin-up. It sounds awesome. Emphasis on sounds. Seeing it is a different story.
I’ve seen some beautiful squats, but a larger-than-desirable number or reps look like a combination of seizure, complete lack of movement education, and aggressive trolling of unsuspecting coaches. If this is indeed trolling, it’s an elaborate setup. My guess is that lack of education is the ticket.
Betwixt carving Jack O’Lanterns and beginning a love affair with Downton Abbey this weekend, I visited the gym with my girlfriend. While I was prepared for the anatomical abuse, she was not. Her general reaction to sub-optimal technique?
A widely accepted and respected rule in physical culture is to get your reps in. You do your squats, you run your miles, you complete what you set out to complete. It’s far easier to count reps than it is to analyze and correct technique while you’re training. I implore you to learn the difference.
Train hard, but with Integrity.
Training intelligently isn’t simply about exercise selection, it’s about respecting the requirements of your body. We prefer to keep our spines neutral, and to spread things out; that’s why you constantly hear about spreading the floor while you squat or deadlift, or pulling a bar apart while you push or pull.
Training with integrity means we respect these physical demands more than we focus on just getting what we want; the understanding that we’ll see better progress over longer periods of time if we slow down, focus on technique, and move well.
When do we focus on technique? Every. Damn. Rep.
There’s rarely a bad time to focus on technique. You have your general warm-up to begin moving well, addressing limitations, and maintaing a neutral spine. You have warm-up sets before work sets to practice good technique. You have work sets, which should be limited by good technique for each set.
Honor your future body over your current program. (Click to Tweet!)
There is honor in slowing down, taking weight off the bar, and moving well. The push-through-the-pain mentality is for the “Just go squat!” old guard. We have more self-respect than that, and we know that we stand to see better results.
It’s also easier to actually stand when you don’t feel like you were hit by a Mack truck. That’s good, too.
Aggressive training is good, and many of us need a regular kick in the ass. Arrogant training is not good, and we frequently confuse the two, lighting a fuse with undetermined length, waiting for the injury bomb to go off. Train confidently, train with movement integrity, and as my girlfriend says, “Don’t be a weenie.”
Be kind to your body, and it will be kind to you. Dial in your technique before you get stronger, so that you can get stronger for longer.