A few strength coaches have forwarded me Ben Bruno’s blog entry and asked me what I thought about his approach and exercises. Similar to the the Mobility WOD or the Diesel Crew, Ben releases a lot of exercises, some of them very creative and functional, and some I believe are variations to create variety. Does it matter? Patrick Ward warns us about being enamored by exercises and some coaches proclaim they only use a handful to get results. I am in the middle, as I believe a careful balance of exercise selection and variation is needed. Minimalism is my approach, but it’s as much as necessary, not as little as possible.
Without being a glorified exercise catalog I have posted a few lesser known exercises because I felt they were effective tools, but my concern is that most athletes can do the basics well. When athletes have a well rounded ability to do the core movements, like a stem cell those movements allow for variations or derivatives of those movements. Unfortunately coaches are afraid not to include new exercises, mainly because new exercises are driven by new toys err equipment. I have a weakness for equipment as new or different is always seductive, but being monogamous to the classics is vital for improvement. This is why the olympic lifts stink at lower levels more than ever since most coaches are too impatient because they succumb to pressures of the get rich society.
When I heard Advanced Leg Curl Variations I felt it was a misnomer, how can a hamstring curl be advanced, and how is variation part of that variation? Lying down doing knee flexion is functional? Instead of pointing out the flaws or showing a better option with the post I figured I would ask the following questions as even I should review my own program.
Do I really need the new exercise? Is the change going to make an impact? With team sports this is perhaps more important as athletes tend to train less, especially in-season. Even if the variation or exercise is similar, a subtle change can be a DOMS issue and the requirements teaching can loose the stimulation of the exercise because loading is usually less and the teaching time looses a set. One coach looked at his transition (switching of exercises) and found he missed two weeks a year if he was not careful. Team sports need time.
How long have I used this exercise and what was the impact? I am trying to do a better job with sharing best practices and will not talk about anything unless I have two seasons under my belt. Some changes are instantly a godsend but most are just placebo or just excitement from doing something new. We need to see the true impact because many times people are getting good results not doing what we do. This is humbling but most of the time talent and environment will trump the best coaches and training programs.
Is the athlete really stale or bored? One of the hardest things to see is the difference between lazy and boredom. How do we measure it? Wow do we know they are interested? Coaches usually get bored quickly because they coach for longer than the athlete competes and often train more sessions per day than the athlete trains in a week. It’s hard to be interested in the same thing but mastery comes from doing the same thing better, not just doing more stuff.
Is the progression really progression? Sometimes I hear people showing convenient neat little progressions with tweaks that look good on paper. Often subtle changes or modifications make exercises similar but slightly more challenging. Visually this is deceptive since it looks similar, but I have seen some progressions that look like different exercises but prepare the athlete systematically. Don’t just add or subtract simple variables and think it’s progression. Sometimes the best progression is good coaching, not tweak an exercise.
What am I giving up? It’s funny how certain coaches are reclaiming their love for olympic lifts yet I fail to see any training hall footage at their private footage. The olympic lifts are always replaced by stuff that simply is not the same. Yes, frontmen to various bands have replaced the stars but are they better bands now? Nobody is going to going nuts to see U2 if Bono retires and a reality show finds a replacement like star search. While I don’t have everyone olympic lift it’s a great example of how replacing power has failed in pro sports. Even if athletes have more time, energy is finite and we need to manage it better.
People are surprised that I watch Ben Bruno’s videos, but sometimes precise exercise selection is the name of the game for specific circumstances. It’s up other users (Coaches and therapists) to provide collaborative feedback of why they do things, including exercise choices. Tinkering is the name of the game, but at the end we still got to develop athletes, not just give them stuff to do.