Tuesday 31 May 2016

10 Important Advances in the Fitness Industry Over the Last Decade

A few months back, a former student and athlete of mine asked me one of the most loaded questions I’ve ever been asked – “What’s changed in the industry since I was a student?” Wow, great question! After much thought and reflection, I came up with a list of some of the most significant changes to the industry over the last decade. I’ve also included some of the mistakes I’ve made and how I’ve changed my mind over the last ten years so you can learn the easy way. I’ve also included a takeaway for each point that you can personally apply. Whether you are a trainer or you just love training, I believe that understanding these changes will help you with your training or professional journey.

Part 1: Training Changes

1. Information overload
While the internet was thriving ten years ago, it is nothing like today. No everyone has a blog and is one social media (and yes, I realize I'm contributing to this information overload right now - but hopefully I'll help bring some clarity). I remember during my under grad degree (96-2000) being told that information in the world doubles every 5 years. Recently I was reading Jon Goodman’s fantastic book “Viralnomics: How to Get People to Want to Talk About You” and he gave this staggering quote:
"In 2003, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that every two days we create as much information as human beings did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.”

Your takeaway: Now, more than ever, there is a need to filter information and appropriately apply it for and your training. You want to use caution that you are you considering important credibility indicators (e.g. results working with real people) vs. today's popular credibility indicators (e.g. twitter followers). Also, you want to be extra careful not to get stuck over-analyzing and under-applying.  

2. Personalized exercise selection 
Effective training starts with picking fantastic exercises! However, I used to try to get almost everyone I worked with to do the big 3 (squat, bench and deadlift). While these are amazing lifts that have helped countless individuals get big and strong, they have also wrecked many folks.

In both my own training, my work as a coach and studying the work of other coaches, I’ve come to realize that not everyone should do the exact same variation of a movement. For example, I have had way better results in terms of chest development, upper body strength and shoulder health by replacing the bench press with ring dips.

We also have issues with individual structures. Some people have long torsos and short limbs while others have short torsos and long limbs. This makes certain variations of movements more or less suited to them.

Related: Deadlift Right for Your Body Type and Squat Right for Your Body Type

Over the last few years we have found that when we compare bones there can be a lot of individual differences. Some people have a pelvis that is well suited to deep squatting. Others do not. Some people have an acromion (top part of the shoulder blade) that is well suited to overhead pressing while others do not.

Your takeaway: while there are only a few essential movements, there are many variations of these movements. Focus your training on movements such as: squat/lunge, hinge, push, pull, loaded carry (see below) and a small handful of wisely chosen accessories. However, don’t marry yourself to one particular variation of any movement. Every exercise you do must pass these 3 tests:
  1. It must not beat on your joints
  2. It must be one you are able to regularly progress (e.g. add weight or reps to)
  3. It must deliver measureable results that move you closer to your goal

3. Focusing on Training Systems Instead of Training Tools
The past decade has seen a lot of new training tools/toys. One of the interesting things is that many of the newer training tools seem to come in with a bang (thanks to brilliant marketing efforts) and then fade away. Examples include thinks like Bosu balls and body blades. I’ve also noticed that many of today’s most effective and popular tools have been around for a long time. These include: barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, gymnastic rings, climbing ropes and body weight training. 

The other mistake that many trainers have made is trying to take one particular training tool and turn it into a whole training system. For example, when Swiss balls where popular people tried to do every exercise in their workout lying, sitting kneeling or even standing on a Swiss ball. Over the years I’ve learned to focus more on a whole training system that may use a variety of proven training tools as needed.

Your takeaway: don’t turn a tool into a training system. Don’t marry yourself to one particular training tool. Look at your goal and then use whatever tools best fit the job!

4. Simplicity
Like many young coaches, I fell into the trap of trying to over complicate things and integrate everything I had every learned into each program I wrote. Over the years I have learned that training is just not as complicated as we often make it out to be. Simple works and often works better than the complicated stuff. There is a time and place for the advanced stuff – after years of slaving away at the basics!

Your takeaway: training success is built on the relentless application of the basics – don’t let all the fancy stuff distract you from this.

5. Many good training systems
A decade ago I was more likely to see one system (e.g. Westside Barbell) as the best of the best. As the years have gone by and we have had an explosion of information on the internet, and the chance to be exposed to many different training systems.  I’ve come to realize that there are many effective training systems out there that can deliver great results. Today I’m not married to any particular training system. I have many different systems to pick from and my own training system (a blend of many other systems) has evolved.

In evaluating systems, it is important to recognize how non-programming factors have impacted success and records. For example, there was a huge surge in the popularity of geared lifting and the technology of powerlifting gear about 10-15 years ago. This lead to some pretty impressive numbers, but necessarily stronger people that previous decades. Different powerlifting federations started to define things like squatting to “parallel” differently. Also, other sports such as Strongman Competitions use their own rules (e.g. deadlifting with lifting straps). 

Now, I’m not judging any of these systems/federations/competitions or trying to dictate what is good and bad. However, I’m just pointing out that with these changes, you are no longer comparing apples to apples. This makes it difficult to compare the effectiveness of different training methodologies. 

Your takeaway: There are many training systems out there. You don’t have marry one of them. Use what you need (singular system or a blend) to get the results you want. Also, think critically when you evaluate any training system.

Part 2: Nutrition Changes

6. Excessive Restriction 
The changes in nutrition are quite interesting. Trend wise we went from “Carbs are evil” to Mock “Health Foods” (organic brownies anyone?) and are currently in a fad of “Gluten is evil” (let’s eat gluten-free organic brownies!). We are now in a nutrition fad that I call “Excessive restriction” where people seem to enjoy being part of a special diet club and making nutrition unnecessarily more complicated and restrictive than it has to be. 

Your takeaway: don't fall into the trap of today's excessively restrictive fad diets. 

7. Greater Freedom 
What’s interesting is that if you look at the nutrition research over the last decade, it seems to be moving in the opposite direction as the fads. Take meal frequency for example. A decade ago we all preached, “small frequent meals to rev up your metabolism.” Now we know that there is little difference in meal frequency if the other, bigger things (e.g. total calories and protein levels) are the same. 

Nutrient timing' which was seen as the next frontier of sports and exercise nutrition turned out to be not as big of a deal (i.e. still has some merit, but was overhyped) as we thought it was. We also had the intermittent fasting craze that peaked in popularity from 2011 to 2013. Again we found that there are other ways to eat that work well for some people. 

Your takeaway: good nutrition is just not as sexy or confusing was the diet industry tries to make it.

8. Apps
In the old days I remember doing food logging. I would write every food down in a notebook with the calories and macronutrients and then pull out my calculator and add up all the numbers - talk about time consuming! Now days there are fast, easy apps that people can use to track nutrition faster and easier than ever. This can be a huge help for those needing to really dial things in.

Your takeaway: if you need to log your nutrition, find an app you like.

Related: Food Logging for Body Composition

Part 3: Coaching

9. The art of dealing with people
As a young coach, I thought coaching was all about the information. Have more certifications, read more books and know more than others and you’ll be the best coach – right? Wrong. While knowledge is vital and I’m committed to life-long learning, coaching goes well beyond training science. However, coaching is also about the art and science of dealing with people.

Your takeaway: you will be more successful with coaching (or any other profession) if improve your people skills. A great place to start is Dale Carnegie’s classic book: “How to Win Friends & Influence People.”

10. One change at a time
Over the last decade many top coaches have come have embraced and integrated Behavioral Psychology into their practice. Huge coaching companies like Precision Nutrition place a high emphasis on gradual, step-by step changes to nutrition coaching as opposed to trying to do massive dietary overhauls.

Stay tuned as next I’ll continue this topic looking at the some of the best developments in the areas of Sports Performance, Coaching and more…
How about you? What are your thoughts on these changes? As always, I invite you to leave your questions and comments below or on my Facebook Page.

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