I had been discussing with someone the lack of philosophy or direction some trainers seem to have in implementing methods. Or maybe the dominance of trends that seem to come and go and occupy fitness professional’s mindsets. Below, we uncover a hierarchy for determining your specific methods you’ll choose to implement in your business. Not the how, but mostly the why you do what you do.
When coming up with your own specific methods, it helps to look at it in this hierarchical process. Thanks to David Crump for writing the article that inspired me to take this a step further.
Scientific laws->Theory->Principles->Philosophy->Tools->Exercises->Techniques=Your Methods
Most of what we have talked about here has been evidence in the way of scientific laws, theories, principles, and we fill in the gaps with philosophy. Laws, theories, and principles will not change much over time. It’s that in between area or gaps in our knowledge where we may have to make some temporary leaps. What you think about these areas is more likely what will change over time. Starting from this base, most of our programming is likely to look the same. Likewise, practicality is a concern. Not everyone is going to have access to the same tools. Yes, free weights are fairly abundant, but not much else is. The tools, the specific exercises, and techniques you choose to employ will differ among trainers. Again, it’s important to avoid ideology here because nothing is perfect. You can’t do everything all the time. The body just isn’t set up that way. There are only trade-offs and best decisions given a variety of conditions at any given time.
Why philosophy after principles? That’s because the 3 former points are relatively stable in science. Things like the all or none principle, or the principle of specificity, or the overload principle, are generally well established. We can all nearly agree 100% on those things. Yes, there are still gaps in some of the knowledge because this science is still in its infancy. Modern exercise science has really only been around since the 1920’s or so. Even though more general sciences like anatomy and physiology make it up. Nevertheless, there are some gaps in our complete understanding of the subject. Philosophy can have several definitions.
1. The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, esp. when considered as an academic discipline.
2. The study of the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience.
3. A theory or attitude held by a person or organization that acts as a guiding principle for behavior.
As you can see the last two define philosophy within the context of theory. The first definition describes it as a study of the fundamental nature of knowledge. So, once we know all the laws, theories, and principles that are well established (this is where school and certification should come in), we can continue that line of thinking to fill in our knowledge gaps based on what is most logical or most likely given what we already know. If we continue to apply the same logic that led us to earlier answers, it’s reasonable to expect more than one professional to come to the same conclusions on what we don’t yet know.
The next point of tools concerns practicality. We have many tools at our disposal and it’s really a personal preference at this point given a variety of conditions with no one tool really being better than any other. If you don’t have access to the best equipment in the world, you use what you or your client’s have access to. What’s practical. It’s that simple.
Exercises, are, of course what you’ll be doing with the tools at your disposal. We generally have a standard group of exercises based on muscle and joint function, biomechanics, and the principles which we already agreed are generally well established. Two professionals with a good knowledge of kinesiology and biomechanics aren’t likely to use very many different exercises. We do have a number of variations of a number of exercises and again, it may more depend on the tools available to you.
Techniques are where things are more likely to differ among professionals. Many different styles of work can be performed still within the realm of safety and effectiveness. Some may prefer more standard rep speed cadence, some may prefer a slower speed cadence. Some others still may prefer to use different cadences at different times. These are perfectly acceptable deviations based on what we know to be safe and effective at this time. The same holds true if you and your clients prefer to use things like static holds which are more on the loading end of the spectrum versus slower speed repetitions which emphasize more of the deep fatiguing aspects of training. Or using any combination of techniques in between.
All of these items together in whole and in this order will lead you to what will be your specific methods. Again though, it is a hierarchical and ordered way of thinking. You don’t want to make up exercises and techniques with a total disregard for the established principles and laws. That won’t work. It won’t make you look good and it might even get you into trouble. The same will hold true for nutritional approaches or a number of other things in your life, for that matter. Practice thinking in this way critically and it will help you make adjustments and solve problems as they arise. Most of all, it will help you work better with your clients to ultimately, give them what they need and want. Together, if we all agree to start from this base, we can move toward a more standardized industry while still retaining individuality and differentiation.