Friday, August 4, 2017

And then everyone was a strength coach.

There was a time when people working in gyms were fitness instructors and personal trainers. But this wasn't cool enough.

It started to get a bad reputation, the barrier to entry was low, the qualifications were easy. And no one was going to pay an online 'fitness instructor guru', it just didn't have a cool ring to it.

Being a strength coach was much cooler. All those guys training people in American high schools, and in their garage and selling online products were strength coaches.

Before you knew it, power racks sprung up and people were powerlifters and following Westside. And there were dynamic effort days and bands and chains. And if you didn't know a buffalo bar from a Texas power bar you might as well have still been balancing on a swiss ball with Paul Chek.

And then Olympic lifting was a thing. 10 years ago there wasn't one Olympic lifting technique video on the internet – I know because I looked for them and couldn't find them, so I went and did the lifting course back in 2007/8.

On the same course were some guys who were going to open something called a 'crossfit gym'. None of us had lifting shoes, we all did it in trainers, the coaches running the course didn't even mention lifting shoes. And I went back to the gym and had to practice with metal weight plates on a normal floor.

Fast forward ten years and there are coaches on the internet who by rights should be coaching the Chinese team with the expertise they appear to have – not hanging out at the local gym or critiquing peoples technique on the internet.

And everyone expected a power rack and bumper plates.

And trainers wanted to be coaches, and everyone had to deadlift and squat. Because coaches had respect and weren't poorly paid cleaners in disguise. Who could blame them, '20 years of schooling and they put you on the day shift'. And this stuff was way more interesting than standing next to a treadmill and asking someone if their RPE was 12 or 13.

And one of the safest sports started to throw up injuries. Things that were rare became common places such as end plate fractures in the spine. And your Doctor is not really looking for it because who fractures an end plate? Someone under massive spinal compression.

And heavy unilateral lifting without qualification ended up with people breaking their pelvic rings.
And then everyone wanted to train like an 'athlete' or train 'athletes'. Well kind of… Take some plyometrics and put them together in a long intense class format and give it to a bunch of people who haven't jumped off the ground since they were skipping in primary school. And there were blown ACLs and ruptured achilles.

And some of the biggest fitness/ class companies in the world started to put together HIIT/ plyometric workouts. But they didn't grasp it, they didn't fully understand it. They hadn't immersed themselves in it for years. And then 50 year old women started to rupture achilles because they were doing exercises designed for Soviet athletes.

And the strength coaches had everyone Olympic lifting, and I was guilty too. And those clients who just wanted a bit of weight loss and tone were doing cleans and jerks without screening, and had no business ever doing these exercises. Like suddenly introducing your client to the sport of javelin or hammer throwing when they are 60 years old.

And people who had no business putting a weight over their head in a deep squat were trained relentlessly for a sport they should never had started because strength was good and reps were bad unless they were metcon reps. And anything above 5 reps was cardio.

And cardio was a joke, because a fat man in a lifting suit said so.

And young injury free coaches who were used to training young injury free contemporaries who did sports like rugby thought this was a universal template. Regardless of spine disc shape, or injury history or training age.

And these coaches who were used to training high school athletes and college athletes, with GOMAD a gallon of milk a day protocol, and 5x5 was all you would ever need convinced the poor guys and girls in the local gym that everyone could be trained like this. Because they had never encountered anyone who couldn't do 10 pull ups straight off or who couldn't walk up a flight of stairs without getting out of breath.

But women started lifting weights, and lo it was good. For their body shape started to change. And booty was the new boobs, and fitness was this years model.

But don't talk about the back injuries and the stupid sit ups. And everyone wore lifting shoes all the time, and wondered why their knees hurt when they back squatted.

Now there were powerlifters, crossfitters, and strongmen and Olympic lifters in every gym, and the bodybuilders hid in the corner (even though they weren't really bodybuilders and had never entered a competition, but they clung onto their bodypart splits and preacher curls like the Golden fleece they knew it was) but their time would come again. The rise of the fitness model was about to happen, fake tan sales and posing stage costume sales were about to explode. And the fitness competition organisers knew this, and their were posing coaches, and online nutrition programmes, and people who placed top 50 in their local bikini comp were now not just strength coaches but figure coaches and body transformation coaches.

(and it was okay to objectify women and make them strut around in stripper heels as long as you tack the word 'fitness' to the event, because that's empowering, how very post modern, and as my friend heard the compere say at one of these event 'don't forget we're not just judging their bodies, but their faces as well'; at least they were being honest, T&A with quarter turns were now fine, we could all look and not feel bad like the bad old days of the 1970's and Miss World competitions. Now they didn't even pretend to want world peace, they just wanted a supplement sponsorship deal and 100,000 insta followers).

And of course, guys had fitness comps as well, where they wore board shorts and fake grins, but mostly everyone laughed at them because they weren't strength coaches.

And it was all fine, there was more choice than ever. But somewhere along the line, quality was forgotten.

And most of the strength coaches out there doing their job everyday had no internet presence. And knew training individuals was always an individual programming decision, and they thought deeply about methods of training and the philosophy of it all. But they were not trying to be all things to all people.

It was the best of the times, it was the worst of times. Everything it could ever be was right there, but it was ever so slightly off target. And it could have been so good, it could still be.

But wait long enough and everything will go full circle again and again and again.

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