by Bret Contreras March 25, 2015
Recently, I saw a Facebook thread that was criticizing a popular strength coach for his methods. I happen to know this strength coach and appreciate his insight. This particular coach’s methods and opinions have been shaped by two solid decades of strength coaching and personal training experience. A cursory investigation of the individual that was the most vocal in his attacks revealed that he’d been lifting weights for just a couple of years and had zero experience in working with other individuals. I don’t like getting involved in social media debates as I feel that my time is better served elsewhere, so I stayed out of it. I was hoping that my colleague stepped in to defend himself, especially considering the fact that he was tagged in the thread, but he laid low. Here’s what I wanted him to say:
“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I’m just some old, washed-up coach with antiquated methods.
Maybe everyone should ignore me and just do things your way.
But you know what? Maybe, just maybe, you’re way off base in your criticism.
You see, these methods that you attack are based on watching over a million reps of squats, deadlifts, chin ups, and bench press. They were carefully crafted and molded while working with several thousand athletes over many years in the weight room.
Maybe the mere fact that you’re so confident shows just how unprepared and unqualified you are to be making such comments.
I watch a dozen of your types emerge every week on the internet. Oh, the folly of youth.
Could it be that you’re just another cocksure youngster who feels entitled to judge every coach’s methods because he read the latest month of T-Nation articles and collected his first year of beginner gains as a lifter?
Could it be that you mistakenly thought that circle-jerking on Internet strength training forums replaced decades of experience gleaned from waking up at 4 a.m. and spending the bulk of your waking hours in the gym working with real people?
Could it be that you’re just wandering the earth, umbilical cord in hand, looking for some place to plug in?
Your arguments are as flimsy as the Bosu ball you squat on, because your knowledge comes from parroting other coaches instead of hands-on experience. When Rippetoe’s latest article disagrees with John’s previous article, and when Pavel’s latest work contradicts Wendler, you fall apart and are left shivering in your Vibrams.
What’s that you say – adaptive reconstruction versus supercompensation? Don’t worry, I read Supertraining too. In fact, I read it when you were just a child. But while you’re busy sifting through your copy looking for passages to plagiarize, I’m using mine as a 1-board press to build my athletes’ bench press strength. I’m wondering if you even have an original thought to share.
You haven’t put in the work, son.
You never had to train 20+ high school athletes all by yourself with limited or no equipment.
You never had to start off as an intern or lowly assistant, kiss the head coach’s ass, work your way into the inner-circle, and climb your way up the greasy rungs in order to one day be the head honcho and make meaningful changes.
You never took a losing team and helped turn them into winners, nor did you ever help make a team bigger, stronger, faster, and more powerful without injuring any players along the way.
You never had to convince a team of collegiate football players, each of whom could probably whoop your ass, to follow your lead.
You never had to work with the female soccer player with a severe glute imbalance, therefore you never figured out any solutions for improving her lateral shifting when she squats.
You never trained the grappler who roundbacked every time he bent over, and so you never had to come up with unique ways to enforce the hip hinge.
You never worked with the volleyball player with a nasty case of valgus collapse, so you never created any fixes for preventing medial knee displacement while squatting.
You never had to work with youth or elderly athletes.
You never worked with outliers with extreme anthropometries, so you’re not equipped to deal with the athlete who is forced to SLDL every pull or squat morning every squat.
You never worked with the 7 foot tall NBA player with persistent low back pain or the NHL player with a sports hernia.
You never worked with the MLB pitcher and experimented with different methods to try to improve pitching speed, therefore you don’t have the slightest clue as to what best transfers to what.
You never worked with the bikini competitor whose glutes weren’t responding to traditional squats and deadlifts, so you never had to get crafty with your glute training methods.
You’ve never spoken to the veteran athlete about his favorite go-to exercises in order to earn his buy-in, nor have you listened to feedback from thousands of clients pertaining to various exercises.
You never had to work with the support staff to try to get a handle on a particular athlete’s unique injury, pain, or discomfort.
You never had to pull a MacGuyver and rig up some equipment on the fly in order to allow your client to perform a certain exercise variation.
You never took the time to experiment with the hundreds of exercise variations, not in your own training, and not in the training of others.
You never created your own list of progressions and regressions or exercise categorization scheme.
You never tossed and turned in bed trying to take your mind off of your team’s strength & conditioning challenges.
You never even learned the scientific method in order to control variables so you could learn any true effects of an implementation.
You haven’t the slightest clue how laden the broscience you speak is with confirmation bias, cherry-picking, and logical fallacies.
You never won any championships, set any records, furthered your education, received any certifications, or presented at any conferences, so you haven’t earned the respect and admiration of your peers.
You never made friends with the true movers and shakers in the industry, and so you never got to pick their brains to glean their insight.
Ask any good strength coach. It’s not about creating the strongest athlete possible; it’s about creating the best athlete possible. This requires a combination of mobility, stability, strength, and power in multiple directions. Achieving this blend is going to require a bit more than what you propose.
There are some things that just can’t be learned by reading Starting Strength from cover to cover or receiving a weekend FMS certification.
You haven’t earned the ability to properly critique my work. Maybe, just maybe, you could learn a thing or two from me punk.
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