Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Avoid Inculcating Failure

First off, if you aren't reading SquatRx, you should. What Boris posts is always eloquent, effective, and interesting.

"Try to Never Send a Loser Off Your Training Site"

Boris quotes Lt. Col Dave Grossman w. Loren W. Christensen's book On Combat about teaching success vs. inculcating a failure response, with a side order of avoiding demonstrating the superiority of the teacher instead of teaching.

This dovetails nicely with how I train, both myself and my clients.

My goal as a trainer is to send you home with a "training effect" - by which I mean, enough stress that you will adapt positively from the workout. A workout that is enough to make you better after you rest.

Also, if possible and appropriate, I'd like to send you home some kind of improvement within the workout - a personal record, a new skill, a harder variation. If possible - if it's more appropriate to give you a lower workload, save PRs and new exercises for next time, or otherwise dial it back, I'll do so. The goal is results, not showing how hard I can push you.

It's easy to find failure - weights you can't lift, exercises you can't do, workouts you can't complete. But it's hard to find just enough success to make you better. There is a line between "not enough" and "too much" and my goal as a trainer is to find it and have you train there, and adjust it each and every time to stay on the path to your goals.

I don't care too much about sending you home tired, worn out, or wrecked. This is not to say that this won't happen. You may be briefly crushed by the Thomas Finisher or your arms or legs might be rubbery from 100-rep sets. Some workouts will take a lot out of you. But not all of them, and it's a side effect not a deliberate, workout after workout effect. What matters is what you get out of it in the long run, not how hard it feels like you worked this workout. Like Boris says - failure breeds failure, and success breeds success. Work hard, but more often than not you want to take success home with you from the gym rather than failure.


  1. I never understood why trainers would smash a person in a workout, or get them to fall off a bosu, and then wonder why the person didn't sign up for PT.

    I try to send them off feeling more competent than before.

    1. I think it happens for a few reasons. Some of them are;

      - it's easier than finding exactly the right mix of training to get the person better.

      - mixing up acute response with long-term response (i.e. exhaustion for good training)

      - clients ask for, either indirectly ("I'm never sore" or "that other training used to make me nearly puke, I liked that") or directly ("Make me work harder.")

      - you see clients leaving you for the latest and greatest "smash the client" trainer at the gym or a nearby gym, so it because a financial issue . . . you must make them feel "worked out" or you lose them before they see the real results of appropriate training.

      - some people equate maximal work with hard work, so if you aren't smashing yourself or your clients, you aren't training hard. I'd be hard pressed to name more people who don't think this than that do.

      - hard and fast being better than slow and steady is a popular thing - the "more efficient in the gym" thing.

      Just off the top of my head . . . the fact that the slow and steady approach wins hands down time in and time out doesn't change the perception of people, and some of them are trainers and some are clients!

    2. I think it's quite possible to have them leave feeling more competent than before, and then toss in some bullshit at the end to make them sore. I don't mind putting in things I consider generally useless, like curls and crunches, provided most of the stuff is useful. If the session is 80% good and 20% fluff, that's okay. That's heaps better than they'll do on their own.

    3. I think that's a good approach. I certainly err on your side rather than the reasons I gave. I don't agree with those, but I think they are some of the reasons your see that "crush the client" / "crush yourself" things. Even if, in the long run, they don't work out so well, in the short run they assure your client you are making them work and assure yourself you left nothing in reserve when you trained. Sadly, that's not the best way to progress day-in, day-out.


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