Join Date: Apr 2010
Training Exp: 5
Training Type: Strongman
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Training Clarity: One Goal at a Time
Full Article at T-Nation
Clarity is an issue in the strength training field. I can yell out, "Ace, LeRoy, Middle Stretch" and eleven freshman football players will all know where to line up, block, run, move and attack as soon as the ball is snapped.
But when I say, "Squatting is important," I get questions about high bar, low bar, Zercher, goblet, box, front, overhead, Smith machine, and probably a dozen other styles, options, and nuances that I've yet to hear.
Part of the issue with strength and conditioning is that we have a set of tools. It doesn't matter how long your list is, whether it includes barbells, machines, kettlebells, dumbbells or whatever, there seems to be some confusion about the application of these tools to "this."
So what is this?
Well, it's qualities. The basic barbell is unmatched for building strength. The Olympic lifting moves – including the military press that left competition in 1972 but is still a good idea for anyone – can change lives. One can build a level of strength that can stop your older brother's friend from ever talking bad about you again.
I witnessed this with my friend, Eric, and one of my most cherished memories is telling Eric, "You can let him down now." Eric had push-pressed an older, mouthy friend of his brother up into the air and, to be honest, it was fun to watch his feet dangle for a few seconds.
If you want even more satisfaction, the three powerlifts (bench, squat and deadlift) are unrivaled in their ability to change 97-pound weaklings into monsters who belch thunder and fart lightning.
What about mobility and flexibility? As early as 1980, I wrote that the overhead squat, straight leg deadlift, dip, and pull-up (done correctly) could do more for flexibility than all the ballet classes at charm school.
If you need proof, teach someone off the street a correct front squat. Sure, strength will be an issue, but more likely it will be flexibility of the wrists, elbows, shoulders, back, and legs. Other than those joints, and a few others, front squats require no mobility or flexibility at all. (For those missing the gene, that was "sarcasm.")
For hypertrophy, a.k.a. "bodybuilding," the barbell is still the tool of choice. Although I put on forty pounds of mass in four months doing nothing but the O-lifts, I can't ignore the contributions of three or four generations of lifters who used the barbell for bodybuilding. I maintain the advice the great Robbie Robinson gave me years ago – to mix front squats with straight leg deadlifts and bench presses and pull ups for hypertrophy – stands the test of time.
And finally, for this odd thing I call "Armor Building", I maintain that quality fighters need to deal with contact, snatch grip deadlifts, Zercher squats, biceps curls (especially with a thick bar), and bench presses. That protocol will answer the call better than anything else.
So, one tool, the barbell, answers the question for a number of qualities – strength, mobility, flexibility, hypertrophy, and general toughening. The problem is, when most people go into the gym and train, they strive to do literally everything at once.
There's also another issue: most of us can't help but think that unless we're putting the pedal to the metal, going right into the red zone then hitting the wall, we aren't truly training.
So, to sum the issue:
We have one tool (or several, but weights are weights).
We have one mind set.
This is the problem.