Mass Confusion

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

For EliteFTS- Originally written in 2004

Am I the only one who reads articles by other strength coaches and wonders if I’m losing my mind? Reading about an iso-quasi-eccentric upside down fat bar hang clean supersetted with sub-maximal dynamic effort isometric depth jumps can have the profound effect of making you tear out your own hair in an effort to figure out a way to incorporate these methods into your workouts.

The sad fact is that many of the people who read these articles don’t realize that much of these methods are unnecessary and even useless. By constantly trying all of the most high tech, scientifically advanced new trends in strength training many of you will only end up spinning your wheels and never making true progress.

Jumping from one method or system to the next, just because it seems more complex than the last, is not an efficient way to get bigger, stronger, and faster.  As a strength coach your main goal is to get results with your athletes. Results win ball games and results can greatly increase the size of your wallet.

The problem is that as a strength coach, you have to make a name for yourself and separate yourself from the pack. You have to do something radically different that no one else is doing, because then people will think you are a genius. They will think you are on to something special and must be an amazing strength coach who deserves a thousand dollars an hour and a private bedroom in the White House.

I know that I’m going to piss a lot of people off by saying this but, many strength coaches who end up famous have mastered the art of the over complicated training systems. Every gimmick and novelty idea they can think of is utilized and they know how to sell them. They use fancy training cycles, and incorporate every different method of lifting known to man in each individual cycle or sometimes in every cycle. And often times they use these methods with beginners, which is absolutely useless and unnecessary.

If some one has only been training for a year, they are far from ready to start using bands and chains. If that same person can only bench 135, than they definitely don’t need to start doing dynamic effort sets with 80 pounds. Beginners don’t get stronger by getting faster, like some advanced lifters do, beginners get stronger by simply GETTING STRONGER! Unfortunately many strength coaches forget this important fact and forget that they did not use these methods when they started lifting.

If you want to be known as a great strength coach, you have to constantly quote studies that validate your methods. For example, justify your use of extremely slow tempo lifting by explaining how accentuated eccentrics are necessary for muscle growth. After all Chuck Vogelpohl and the 280 pound Jim Wendler do so all the time. Come to think of it, I remember that scene in Pumping Iron when Arnold was doing seated cable rows with a very slow and controlled tempo. I think it was a 602 if my memory serves correctly. “According to studies a set must last 40-70 seconds to induce hypertrophy.” Remember that if you ever plan on building any muscle.

Another smart plan of action would be to incorporate the use of isometric training and explain the findings of 369 different studies that showed that you can recruit a much larger percentage of muscle fibers with an isometric contraction than you can with either a concentric or eccentric contraction. Talk about studies that showed greater cross sectional area improvement with isometric versus concentric training when explaining why an athlete or bodybuilder must use isometric training for hypertrophy gains. If that doesn’t convince them, describe how Westside powerlifter, J.L. Holdsworth went on to bench press 800 pounds by the constant use of isometrics…

Oh wait…never mind.

The great thing about using all of these complicated methods is that it makes you look incredibly smart and makes your critics look incredibly dumb. The only reason some one could say that your high tech methods don’t work is because that person is not as smart as you. They haven’t read the studies and are too stupid to be able to figure them all out and put all of the information to good use. If any one were brave enough to come out and say that many of these overly complicated systems were useless they would look like some big dummy who has been the junior high strength coach in some small town in Idaho since the sixties. It’s really a no lose situation.

Of course, by now you all realize that much of what I have said has been in jest. I have read all of the studies and used all of the methods, both on myself and with hundreds of clients. I have also gotten athletes bigger, stronger, and faster with far less complicated methods. There is a time and a place for advanced methods. Most of us will never get there, however.

For years, I was like many of you, in search of the next best thing in strength training, trying every system I could get my hands on. I still read several hours a week about training and am always experimenting with a new variable or two.

Believe it or not, I do believe that beginners could actually benefit from a more controlled tempo and there are even times when I will prescribe the use of isometrics in the training of certain individuals. There are many advanced methods that can work extremely well, the problem is that many strength coaches and trainers utilize them long before they are needed.

Next time you read one of these new space age training programs, take a step back and think for a minute. Think about what methods the biggest,  strongest, baddest dudes on the planet use. Think about how the best athletes train. Find out what kinds of results the author has gotten with his own clients.  Is it all just  smoke and mirrors or is it the real deal? You decide.