Heirachy of Training


People love categories, everything pigeon holed into neat boxes.

I have to say, I like categorising things too, it makes life simpler.

To this end I categorise many of my students and clients. I have three main categories, I’ll admit, I stole them from another coach, I heard John Hinds founder of the Monkey Bar Gym talking about it in a presentation.
He was describing the loading parameters for a particular workout and said that “Stability level use Xkg, Strength Level use Ykg and Power Level use Zkg”

Apart from the workout being one that I use with my Lunchtime fitness guys, it was his three categories that got me thinking.

John’s system of categorisation seems so efficient, and I love the simple nature of it. I’m sure his system is much larger than he gives away in these short speeches, but it’s a great reference point.
The thing is, the human body just doesn’t fit neatly into boxes. So our categorisation methods have to account for this.
Obviously we want our members to work through from the basic level (Stability) to the more advanced (power), but we ned to think about how this occurs, how previous training history, injuries and goals all affect the person.

Most beginners, those that come to us with either no training experience or those that are coming from the commercial gym environment, require stability.

What does this mean?
We need the body to be able to hold itself before we can effectively load it. We need to develop the structural integrity and coordination of the body.
We need to develop efficient movement patterns.
We need to  strengthen to core unit.
We need to coordinate movement.
The body must be developed according to the alternating joint theory, which will allow them to progress onto the strength level.

The strength phase can 0nly really begin as the body becomes stable enough to support external load.
The commercial gym’s obsession with weight training machines allows many to bypass the stability stage and start developing muscular strength, however when faced with real life scenarios, these machine built muscles very often fail to deliver, this is because time was never spent stabilising the body and instead allowing the machine to provide a false sense of stability. No stability, no foundation and a house without foundation will topple.

Once a foundation of strength is achieved people can then move onto the power stage. This is where exercises become explosive so require a good solid structure to work from. The muscles and connective tissues all need to have strength and stability, movement patterns must be well coordinated and the athlete is in good all round shape.
Many never get to this stage either through choice or poor training.

Sounds simple eh?

Here’s some progressions:
Stability -> Strength -> Power
Plank -> Push Up -> Plyo Push Up / 1 Arm Push Up
Squat -> Weighted Squat -> Jump Squat
Low Kettlebell Windmill -> Overhead Kettlebell Windmill -> Side or Bent Press
2Handed Kettlebell Swing -> 1 Handed Kettlebell Swing -> Kettlebell Snatch

You see how it works.

The problem then arises when people start to drift between categories.
Many of the female athletes that start out here are already in the strength category for the lower body but the shoulders are way back in stability.
Conversely, lads are often the other way round.

Those that join us from a commercial gym background have strength in the limbs but their core / torso is way behind in the stability area.

And then there’s the injured crowd. Take Linda for example, she was moving rapidly towards the power category until she had a cycling accident.
Now she is stuck in the strength category for around 80% of her body and her injured shoulder is way back in the stability category playing catch up.

Now, I’m starting to lose the point of this post so I’ll wrap up.

The inspiration for this load of babble came from a conversation on progression.
Progression means many things, it can be more reps with a given weight, it can be the same reps with a higher weight, it can be less rest between sets, it can be more complex movement patterns.
But it is essential that the athlete doesn’t progress before he or she is good and ready. This is where having loose, arbitrary categories come into the equation.
Never forget that people drift between the categories on a near daily basis and allow for this in your programming.
Never try to get a stability level client to do power moves, that’s just ridiculous and a recipe for injury.

If you’ve attended my kettlebell workshops, you’ll have noticed that you don’t learn the Jerk and Snatch until the third workshop in the series. First we build stability with Power Breathing, Military Presses, Squats and 2 handed Swings in Level 1, move to strength with level 2’s push press, Turkish Get Up and 1 handed Swing before we even think about teaching the power based moves of Snatch and Jerk.

There will be a Workshop covering Level 1 and 2 on February 4th, details are in the side bar or contact us for more info.

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