Why Aren’t We Debating More?

How’s your programming? Does it work?

When is the last time you were asked this question?

I first heard the word “CrossFit” in the Supertraining Group. Mel Siff ran the group, and there were frequent contributions from Louie Simmons, Charlie Francis, and a host of other sport scientists who later became famous. If you were serious about training in 2000, you were in that group.

Greg Glassman was also in the group. For about a week. The conversation was so turbulent that Greg remembered it when I asked him about it in 2017.

Now, a ‘heated topic’ in a professional group is a far cry from the name-calling and public humiliation you encounter in many gym owners’ groups on Facebook now. No one in Siff’s group called anyone else a “fearmonger” or “slave-trader”. No one attacked another’s principles because they disagreed with their policies like they do in some online forums today. But the argument was so hot, and so one-sided, that Glassman left the group after a few days. A few years later, his training method–CrossFit–had taken over the world.

The central point of contention? “Constantly varied programming.” Most of the sport scientists thought that “constantly varied” was the same as “random”. It’s not–at least in principle. But years later, the ultimate irony of CrossFit and the sport scientists who attacked it is this: they were wrong then, but they’re right now.

Think about how you choose your workouts.

Do you review your clients’ progress and goals, and then tailor your prescription to address their short-term objectives?

Or do you see a tough workout and think, “Ooooh, THAT looks SPICY!” and throw it into the mix as soon as possible?

Are you choosing challenges based on your clients’ progress, or are you choosing “hard for the sake of hard”?

Are you confusing the pursuit of excellence–applying maximum intensity in the right direction–with the pursuit of intensity for its own sake?

Look, I’m guilty too.

I’m addicted to novelty.

I have a strong bias toward the barbell.

I hate thrusters, so I tend to not program them.

Sometimes we program based on missing skills instead of missing results. We forget that clients didn’t sign up to learn how to climb a rope, but to lose weight.

We scale our workouts instead of adjusting our programming.

But admitting a mistake doesn’t justify its continuance.

It’s no longer hard to measure your programming’s effect. Track your athletes’ metrics over time. Are they stronger? Faster? Leaner?

Who’s getting the best results from your programming? What are they doing differently? What can you learn from them and share with the rest?

Who’s getting the worst results from your programming? What are they lacking? Would they do better with a different service than your group class?

Failure to measure is failure to coach.

Here’s an example: if you look in any Facebook group for gym owners and coaches, you’ll find a discussion on where to purchase programming. There are dozens of options now, from Warmup&Workout to BoxProgramming.com, Street Parking to NCFit…I can’t even list them all.

Read through the discussion. Does anyone ask, “Does it work?”

I’m willing to bet that all of the comments are about price; about class notes; about coaching cues; or about novelty. It’s rare to find a single person who says, “This increased my average client’s deadlift by 11%” or “This program changed my client’s average body composition by 3%”.

That’s because we don’t measure those things.

While the price to purchase programming is dropping, it should actually be going up. The programmers who show the best results should actually separate themselves from the pack over time. As their value increases, so should their price. But because no one measures effect, their prices are now around $19 per month, down from over $250 per month only two years ago.

And this is how YOUR clients perceive your service, too: if you’re not measuring effect, and changing their prescription, then they’re just buying novelty and high fives. And they can buy those things cheaper somewhere else.

The real purpose of getting a coach isn’t to find the perfect program. It’s to have someone who will change the program when it’s not working, or double down when it is. The pursuit of constantly varied, functional movement has made me a lazy programmer. Finding “hard” is easy. Finding “best” is not.

Let’s share our programming. Let’s debate it. Let’s prove that it works or prove that it doesn’t. Professional debate helps our clients AND our practice.

Read more: Features-based Programming vs Benefits-Based Programming

…and learn how to program for groups in our Second Degree Course.

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