FAQ - South Loop Strength & Conditioning

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FAQ

Getting Started
Training at SLSC

I've heard CrossFit/weightlifting/exercising is dangerous…

Is there danger in CrossFit workouts? Absolutely. There is a risk of chronic overuse injury and there is a risk of acute traumatic injury. No matter how many precautions you take, someone will get hurt at some point.

This is true of any training program, and any sport. Is CrossFit more dangerous than other comparable activities? Not really. When looking at data about injuries per participant hours (the best way to standardize injury data), it seems that CrossFit is about as dangerous as other weight training and gymnastics activities. Which is actually quite a bit less dangerous than team sports like soccer and even conventionally accepted exercise like distance running. If you're interested in data on weight training injury rates, here's a paper to get started on your research: http://www.velocitysp.com/multimedia/docs/lehi/Hamill,RelativeSafety-3.pdf

Then, things get a little greyer when you start comparing the risk of training injury to the risk of not training at all. Are you more likely to get elbow tendinitis if you do a bunch of pull-ups? Absolutely. However, what's the risk of never doing any pull-ups? Strength training does hedge against long-term degeneration. Each person has to decide where there appetite for risk is in terms of short-term injury versus long-term loss of muscle mass and movement towards obesity and chronic disease.

This is also one of the most common areas for concern trolling from friends and family. “Oh, you’re going to start CrossFit? I heard that’s really dangerous.” Of course, some people are legitimately concerned, but there’s often an insidious habit of people attempting to shoot down those who are close to them when they want to do something different – whether that’s involving exercise, career changes, starting a side business, trying a new diet, etc.

All of that said, we do believe that many programs are run irresponsibly. We believe that there are two major areas where most fitness programs fall short.

  1. Upfront screening and assessment
    It's not enough to simply ask a client if they've had any previous injuries, then throw them into the mix. We do an upfront movement screen on all potential clients to establish competency in baseline movement patterns. While not a perfect predictor, we can say that, if an individual has significant compensation patterns in certain movements (squatting, lunging, pressing, etc.), that we want to hold off on training those movements aggressively until the compensation is corrected.

Will people still get hurt who show no red flags on their screening? Yes. Will people who show major red flags have the capacity to train recklessly without getting hurt? Yes. However, we do believe that we have the capacity to catch issues early and work on them in non-stressful situations to remove some injury risk.

  1. Differentiation of goals
    There's a somewhat disingenuous myth in the fitness community that "all you need is scaling." That one prescription is appropriate for everyone, and the only thing that needs to be changed is the load, the time, or the movement. We believe that this is blatantly false, and that many issues people have with injuries come from a misunderstanding of what their fitness goals are relative to their program.

There is a fundamental difference between those looking to compete and win in sport and those looking to train to look better, feel better, have more energy, and have longevity. Those in the first camp need to take on the risk of pushing their bodies for maximum adaptation in their sport. They need to make sacrifices to get training time in and they sometimes need to push through pain to compete. They sometimes need to push the line into overtraining and accept the fallout on their endocrine system. This all needs to be done with the understanding that they are sacrificing some of their health and their longevity for chasing maximum performance and maximum potential.

To simply look better and feel better, you do not need to go down this path, and, in fact, doing so can be counterproductive to your goals. We strongly believe in openness and honesty with our clients regarding what is necessary to compete, and what is necessary to look and feel better.

I (Todd) also did an interview with www.sportsrehabexpert.com in which I discussed many of these concepts. If you enjoy podcasts and listening to people talk about fitness, take a gander here.

So, do I need to be in shape before I start?

Well if you were already in shape and meeting your fitness goals, there wouldn't be much reason to come see us then, would there?

We're here to guide you to the next step on your fitness journey, wherever that is for you right now. We have the capacity to improve performance at the top level, and also the capacity to balance nutrition and exercise demands for someone juggling working late hours and trying to spend more time with their family.

What if I can't do a pull-up?

Ideally, if doing a pull-up aligns with your goals, you would follow a progressive program that develops the strength and structural integrity in your upper body to be able to do a pull-up. You can use barbells and dumbbells to develop strength while working on pull-up progressions on the bar. Over time, the strength and the motor patterning will come.

However, this question really seems to be asking something like "If I can't do a pull-up, will everyone judge me?"

This is a misunderstanding of what we're doing at South Loop Strength & Conditioning. We offer classes with programming tiered to different fitness levels and skills. So, we don't just simply "scale" workouts with pull-ups for those who don't have them yet. The whole structure of our program design is intended to give folks with lower training age and strength the framework on which to build these capacities.

Similarly, everyone in our program started somewhere. Some came in with impressive fitness levels, and some came in having never done much exercise other than an occasional jog or a stint on the elliptical. Our community is not about judgment, and, quite frankly, no one really cares all that much what anyone else is doing. And, when we do notice struggle, we're going to offer encouragement not judgment.

Let's be honest. I'm intimidated.

This is totally reasonable.

The presence of the CrossFit Games has given a lot of people the perception that everyone in every CrossFit gym is constantly flipping tires, doing muscle-ups, and slamming 300 pounds down to the ground from overhead.

There's also the assumption that everyone rips their shirt off two minutes into each workout to reveal their sweaty, glistening six packs.

This is simply not the case.

Think of the sport of football. There's the NFL, there's arena football, there's JV high school football, there's playing catch outside with your family, and there's everything in between.

CrossFit is similar. There are a lot of different levels of CrossFit, both as a competition and as a training program.

Some people simply want to play catch with their friends, whereas some people want to be the absolute best that they can be.

There's no problem with either of those, and the person who wants to play catch shouldn't have to feel intimidated because there are people out there who want to play in the NFL.

That said, walking into a situation where people are very fit and doing strange movements and using strange acronyms can be terrifying.

There's not necessarily anything that I can say on a website that will make that not feel somewhat scary.

Just understand that everyone starts somewhere and you're not expected to know how to do everything on day one.

You're not expected to be able to do pull-ups or back squat your bodyweight.

Any good gym will have a progressive process for bringing people onboard that screens them for major movement issues and injuries, teaches them the fundamentals of training in a non-intimidating environment, and helps them identify what they're specific training goals are.

It will still be intimidating to get started, but the first step is hardest part. If you want to start training, find a good gym, take the first step, and let them handle the rest.

"High intensity" sounds scary. And hard.

What we do is unapologetically hard. Our training is difficult and it's not a magic bullet. It takes consistent effort over time to see results, as well as a willingness to work on weaknesses and embrace uncomfortable aspects of training – both physical and psychological.

That said, the term "high intensity" can be a bit misleading.

Many people have seen or heard of bootcamps or CrossFit gyms that put people through the ringer every single day.

Every workout ends with everyone flat on their back, writhing around in pain.

And, this type of brutal workout can be addictive. People love it. They think they're getting great results, because every day is extremely hard.

Instead, the goal is to find the appropriate level of intensity to create the trainind adaptation that we're looking for.

Is there value in "going there" and ending up flat on your back after a workout? For some people with a performance goal, the answer is absolutely yes. Do you need to do that every day to see changes in body composition? Definitely not.

Do we need to max out our lifts every single day? Just because the Bulgarian weightlifting did it (kind of) that doesn't mean that this is best practice for everyone.

So, while CrossFit may involve quite a bit of high intensity training – in terms of total power output as well as percentages used of a one rep max – that doesn't mean that the goal is to constantly smash yourself.

Instead, I think that "appropriate intensity" is a much better mindset for designing training.

I feel like people are going to laugh at me.

Even though we offer differentiated programs and we have some of the best coaches in the industry that are highly skilled at helping people find the perfect level of challenge for their experience level and their bodies, lots of folks are still very intimidated at the thought of coming into a gym.

This usually comes down to a fear of judgment. We imagine doing something wrong at the gym, and suddenly the whole place turns and looks at you. Everyone kind of snickers and raises and eyebrow in some sort of bemused condescension.

We all know that no one is going to bully us, but we feel more like everyone is going to look at us and think, "What are you doing here? You don't belong here." And then let out an arrogant scoff.

Let's be honest here. Everyone at any gym is far too concerned with how they look and how their workout is going to be spending too much time worrying about anyone else.

Just imagine the constant mental chatter that we all experience.

"Ok, am I doing this right? Am I getting worse? I totally shouldn't have gone out drinking last night. That's messing me up right now. And shit, I totally forgot to respond to that e-mail. I don't want to get my phone out right now – I'll remember to do it on the way home…"

Or people are ruminating on something that their boss said to them, or something their incompetent co-worker did, or whether or not their crush is going to like their Instagram picture of them squatting, etc.

Everyone is far too wrapped up in their own stories, their own drama, and their own goals to spend any mental effort trying to bully or shame new people.

It sounds almost harsh, but people care far more about their own issues than whether or not someone who is new and getting started looks like they know what they're doing.

I don't want to get bulky…

This concern usually comes from a conflation of those who are competing to achieve their maximum potential vs those training to look and feel better. While this concern is often voiced by women, there are plenty of men who would prefer not to become "muscle-bound" as well.

At some level, each person is unique in how they respond to training. We're simply providing a platform – each body will adapt differently.

That said, gaining "excessive" muscle mass is extremely difficult for most people. In fact, the training programs that fitness competitors, athletes, and bodybuilders use to achieve their figures are quite above and beyond that which someone training a few times per week would be experiencing.

We could go into a whole discussion of gender norms and aesthetic expectations here, but that's not quite relevant in this space. The reality is that strength training is not for everyone – some people will be uncomfortable with how their bodies look with some additional muscle. Still, most people will find that getting stronger will result in clothes fitting a bit nicer, things looking a bit more toned in the right places, and a general sense of more confidence day-to-day.

"I want to get ripped…"

From the answer above:

"At some level, each person is unique in how they respond to training. We're simply providing a platform – each body will adapt differently."

A solid strength & conditioning program will stimulate increased muscle mass and decreased fat mass. Keep at it, and you just may end up ripped.

That said, those looking for levels of hypertrophy beyond that which they're getting following a general strength & conditioning program may need to add in more specific work intended to make muscles grow. This can take the form of accessory work for lagging areas and movements (often in the form of higher-rep sets – looking more like traditional bodybuilding training) or working 1-on-1 with a coach to remove limiting factors and develop a specific program.

I don't have an athletic background.

It's true that what we do at South Loop Strength & Conditioning resonates with many former athletes.

We have a team environment of like-minded individuals who like to push themselves to be better both mentally and physically on a daily basis.

Many people grew up playing sports and had regular physical and competitive activity as a significant part of their lives until they graduated from school and started working on their careers.

For these folks, finding a training program like the one we offer at SLSC can fill a part of their life that they've been missing.

That said, there are many people who train with us who have no athletic background.

It can be very intimidating to get started if you haven't participated in team sports or done a serious strength and conditoining program before, but the mindset of constant improvement and regular challenge resonates with a lot of people who may not come from a sporting background.

Take a look at this case study from one of our clients, Keshia K, to get a feel for the mindset of someone getting started with training who had no athletic background.

Is all of this squatting and deadlifting hard on your joints?

Now this is a complicated question.

Allow me to reference the concet of hormesis.

Basically, if you provoke an organism with a mildly stressful stimulus, it will often supercompensate and develop to be more resilient to that stressor.

This concept explains the effects of things like the positive impact of antioxidants in the diet, the life-extending effects of calorie restriction, and the muscle-building response of exercise.

The crucial balance here is to find the correct dose of stimulus that causes supercompensation (aka "getting better") without being so stressful as to cause damage.

In terms of dealing with joint function in exercise, the goal is to create adequate mobility and stability at all the major joints, move them through full ranges of motion often enough to keep them lubricated with synovial fluid and make sure the nervous system has a good map of each joint articulation, use enough load to stimulate increased bone mineral density, and to avoid mechanically dangerous positions under load like valgus knee collapse or excessive lumbar flexion and extension.

So, ideally, a well-designed strength and conditioning program with appropriate considerations for an individuals movement patterns should be healthy and helpful for joints.

However, if stress to the joint increases past someone's ability to adapt, either due to excessive volume, excessive intensity, poor motor patterning, or poor hormonal health, there may be problems.

The goal is to find this sweet spot of adaptation, and keep everyone progressing for the long term.

I have "bad genes" – will I still see results?

There is certainly a massive genetic component to training performance and results.

While I'm a massive believer in the concepts of deliberate practice espoused by Daniel Coyle and others, I think that Malcom Gladwell has done the world a bit of a disservice with his famous "10,000 hour rule."

The reality is that, especially in the areas of physical performance and body composition, there are many people who exist on the far end of the bell curve, and no amount of training, practice, or coaching will enable someone without their genetics to get their results.

David Epstein does a great job of breaking some of these concepts down in his book "The Sports Gene."

That said, almost everyone can get better – significantly better – from where they are.

So, if you're trying to get your abs to show and you're getting frustrated following the advice of people who are clearly genetically gifted in terms of how much body fat they store and where they store it, it's very understandable to feel frustrated and irritated.

That said, you can almost certainly maximize your own potential relative to where you are now and see absolutely massive improvements.

This is the same thing with competition in sport. Very few people have the genetic make-up necessary to compete at the CrossFit Games or even finish at the top of the pack in the Open in their region.

Still, almost everyone can see significant improvements by focusing on their weaknesses, eliminating limiting factors in their training and nutrition, and committing to a long process of deliberate practice and steady improvement.

It's not easy, but just about everyone can get better.

Is CrossFit a cult?

We've all seen the jokes on Instagram.

"How do you know if someone does CrossFit? They'll tell you."

"If you're a vegan who does CrossFit, what do you tell people first?"

Not everyone wants to be a high-sock wearing, shirtless exercising, Facebook-posting, WOD acronym-using CrossFitter.

And that's totally fine. A lot of those pieces are just subculture signalling – kind of like the safety pins on a punk's leather jacket or a metalhead's long hair and high tops.

A lot of people do buy into the subculture of CrossFit and get very gung-ho, and they want to share the results that they've had with other people.

They just don't necessarily understand that not everyone cares about their exercise habits.

The positive community aspects of CrossFit can get people very excited, and there's plenty of little subculture "pieces of flair".

Plenty of people, though, treat it just like any other exercise program. They go to work, they do their training, and they head home.

At South Loop Strength & Conditioning, we love the community that we've fostered, but I can say that I am personally sensitive to things that I perceive as corny rah rah cheerleading, and I'd rather focus on results and best practices than social signalling.

Is this just for young people?

The positioning of something like CrossFit certainly tends to resonate with younger people.

There can certainly be an ego-driven, performance culture that turns off people who are more interested in their long-term health and wellness than they are in showing off their six pack and screaming while they flip tires.

Still, the benefits of a progressive resistance training program (intelligent strength work) and appropriately designed conditioning (intelligent aerobic work) are nearly universal across all human beings.

While someone who is younger may resonate more with concepts like beating their friends and maximizing their potential, older folks often want to maintain their health and mobility so that they can have experiences with their children and grandchildren and keep their mental focus.

What we do at SLSC is undeniably challenging and it's not for everyone, but we work with plenty of older folks who like the idea of training with best practices and who are looking for a long-term solution for their fitness.

Do I have to follow the paleo diet?

Within the CrossFit community, there's a pretty significant focus on nutrition.

This is fantastic, as this is a missing piece from a lot of people's results in following a fitness program.

There is significant emphasis on both the Paleo and Zone dieting concepts, as well as an influx of IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) proponents from the figure competition community.

The reality is that, just like a training program, the best results for an individual will come from following an individualize prescription.

Best practices for nutrition will change wildly between someone whose primary goal is performance and someone whose primary goal is body composition change.

One of the things that Paleo has done very well is create an awareness of food quality and the role of diet in chronic inflammation.

However, for many competitors, following a strict Paleo diet leaves them in a caloric deficit, which hampers their performance.

Similarly, for many people simply looking to look good and feel good, extreme diet overhauls like Paleo are intimidating and unsustainable.

Just like training, the best diet plan is one that you will actually follow. It's better to start with small sustainable habits like "put your fork down between bites" and "try to consume 30g of quality protein with each meal" than it is to eliminate entire food groups.

So, some people will see fantastic results following a Paleo diet or something similar. This is not the best path for everyone, though, and diet needs to be evaluated and prescribed based upon an individual's history and their goals.

Are CrossFit gyms a franchise? What's the difference between different gyms?

CrossFit gyms are not, in fact, franchises. They are, instead, affiliates.

Here is a site from CrossFit HQ explaining some of the concepts behind the model.

Fundamentally, each CrossFit affiliate is its own small business operating under a few basic requirements from CrossFit HQ.

Affiliates are free to set up their own processes for programming, coaching, community-building, marketing, and every other piece of running a business.

CrossFit HQ also does not dictate anything regarding equipment suppliers or other simiilar practices you would see in a franchise model.

This means that there will be massive variation between different affiliates in terms of culture, programming, and coaching.

That means that a wise consumer should do their research and try out a few different gyms before making a decision regarding where to train.

Some affiliates will be great and some will be terrible.

The culture and training program at one gym may be a better fit for you, even if the gym is a little bit further away.

Not everyone cares about all of the ins and outs of the details of running a gym, but be aware that each gym has its own philosophy, and it may behoove you to shop around a little bit before making a decision.

Why do you guys run group classes? Will the group class be the right thing for me?

Just like everything else, the answer is "it depends." Will programming for a group be the best design for you specifically? Absolutely not. It may not take into account your structural balance numbers, your training availability, or your nutrition plan. For those looking for training tailored completely to their needs, we recommend individual program design or personal training.

However, for many of our clients, the most important aspect of their fitness regime is accountability, camaraderie, and fun. The perfect program doesn't matter if you don't show up and do it. And the social aspect of working out with friends makes going to the gym fun and not a chore.

I can go to [insert gym] for [insert amount of money]. What's the deal?

We're not the lowest priced gym out there, nor are we the most expensive. We recommend that clients making buying decisions based solely on cost look elsewhere.

We can get into all the back-end calculations of overhead, burn rate, and operating margin, but, fundamentally, we view what we charge as a reflection of the value that we provide.

Our value comes from our coaching, our programming, our community, and the results that gets people. If you don't feel that you're getting twice the value of what you're paying, then we're not doing our job correctly. We’re not in the business of gym memberships, we’re in the business of coaching. And if that seems too expensive to you, I ask you – “what does too expensive mean?”

If price is an issue, we do offer a lot of our knowledge for free.

You can follow the programming for our Fitness & Performance and Competition blogs for free.

We regularly publish articles with some of our best thoughts on training, nutrition and mindset on our Articles blog.

We want people to use our free material, and we want them to get great results with it. If you want more guidance and hands on coaching, we're here for that too.

So, what's the difference between the Fitness, Performance & Competition programming?

These programming tracks are meant to align with different goals and training ages. This answer ties in with the answer above, so maybe read that first.

I like to use the analogy of training for a 5k run. Do you want to just complete the race with your friends, have some fun, and get a bit of exercise in the process? Or, do you have a previous personal record in your sights with your splits all mapped out? Or, do you want to win the whole thing – with a detailed, progressive plan leading up to the event?

Each of these mindsets and aims requires a different training program and commitment in terms of time and lifestyle modification.

Our different tracks are meant to align with these avatars. People training for "Fitness" will spend more time developing skill in movement and won't be expected to perform advanced gymnastics work. Strength work will be focused on progressing steadily from week-to-week and finding optimal mechanics. This track is appropriate for people whose primary goals are to look, move and feel better.

"Performance" is meant for folks with a competitive mindset – maybe you want to see steady progress in your personal bests, beat your friends, and feel like you can "hang" in any environment.

The Performance programming is intended for those with a higher training age, and will focus on developing not just strength and work capacity, but also skill in advanced gymnastics movements as well as maximum strength in the snatch and the clean & jerk.

The Competition programming follows a separate track from our group classes, and is intended for athletes who want to maximize their potential in fitness as a sport. This is not just about being casually competitive and progressing over the months and years. This is about being the absolute best you can be. Following the Competition programming will require significant recovery work outside of the gym (sleep, food, corrective exercise, soft tissue work, active recovery, etc.) and is not appropriate for those who are not extremely serious about their fitness goals.

Can I blend this with additional running, yoga, spin class, etc.?

The programming for our group classes is intended to be a "general physical preparation" program, which means that it should prepare you for a variety of activities. We encourage you to use your fitness in whatever way you enjoy – whether that's distance running or cycling, yoga, recreational sports, rock climbing – the world is your oyster.

We also encourage activity outside of the gym. There's a lot of benefit to less intense training as well as learning new physical skills.

All that said, it's also important to understand, as Mark Rippetoe puts it, the difference between "training" and "exercising." We have seen a certain set of the population that could be classified as group fitness junkies. They bounce from yoga, to spin class, to bootcamp, to CrossFit, to bar classes – sometimes all in the same week. While these folks are often working very hard, they feel like they're not getting the results they deserve for their effort.

This is where the difference between following a progressive program and jumping from activity to activity comes into play. You will get better results from picking a primary training modality and sticking to it consistently for an extended period of time (we're talking months to years) rather than "sampling" different classes all the time. That said, if your goal is simply to be active, have fun, and have new experiences, you may find fulfillment with that path.

Is the programming random?

There are a lot of different opinions about the best way to write programming, and there are a lot of extremely opinionated people.

To be quite honest, I think the actual nuts and bolts of the programming is less important than the mental aspect of training for most people – are you going to show up, have fun, and buy into the program?

Still, there is a lot of criticism of CrossFit for encouraging random programming. CrossFit headquarters does attempt to distinguish between random programming and constantly varied programming, like in this video here.

The question, though, is how much variation is appropriate for optimal adaptation. See, there's a bit of a conflict between offering varied programming and offering progressive programming. The goal is to write programming that enables people to progressively add more weight, do more reps, or move faster, so it can be difficult to ensure that's happening if the stimulus is changing constantly.

There are also competing adaptations within the body in terms of hormonal pathways that respond to aerobic training and strength training.

The reality is that no one knows the optimal balance between variation and consistency in training, and the appropriate amount of each will be different for each individual relative to their goals, their training experience, and where they are in their training cycle.

The best we can do is take all of these factors into account, and attempt to find the right balance to stimulate progress and maintain long-term athletic development.

Can I workout while I'm sore? Will I ever stop being sore?

Soreness is an area that, surprisingly, we really don't know much about.

We can reliably induce delayed onset muscle soreness in people through high repetition eccentric contractions, but research still hasn't conclusively shown exactly what the process is.

It's likely that soreness is a form of localized inflammatory response, as well as sensitization from the nervous system due to being exposed to new stimulus.

The best ways to make someone sore are to do "new" exercises that feature a lot of eccentric contractions.

So, people who are starting a serious strength and conditioning program often experience significant soreness for the first few months of training, after which they generally adapt.

Soreness doesn't necessarily stop, and it can often be provoked by doing a particularly high volume session or by introducing a new exercise, but it generally becomes much more manageable.

In general, training while sore is fine, although it may impede performance.

It is, however, important to use your intuition when deciding whether or not to train.

If you feel a bit stiff and have muscles that are slightly painful to the touch, you will probably be fine after a bit of a warm-up.

If you feel like you can't move and can't straighten your arms or legs, you may have done more significant damage to the muscle and should wait before training it again.

There is no perfect solution here, but use your intuition. It's ok to train while sore, but don't do anything that crosses the line from "mild discomfort" into "pain."

How many calories will I burn during a typical workout?

Click here for more information on that.

I would like to offer a slightly different perspective on training, though. While keeping total calorie balance in mind is definitely important for either weight gain or weight loss, only focusing on calorie balance is a reductionist way of looking at things.

Training is more about creating a stress response that stimulates adaptation. This adaptation can include things like increased muscle mass, reduced body fat, improved stress management, better blood sugar control, etc.

The amount of body fat a given person stores is a balance between dozens and dozens of homeostatic mechanisms that the body uses to maintain its systems. Just like there are systems that keep your blood pH in a tight range that prevents hormones from denaturing, there are systems that regulate things like blood sugar, insulin secretion, blood cholesterol, testosterone, body temperature, etc.

Rather than trying to tightly control the number of calories being burned relative to the number of calories being ingested, it's often more effective to operate within a "calorie range" since there is no way we can actually accurately track and calculate all of the variables relative to our intake and expenditure.

Think of training as a stimulus that causes your body to function better rather than just a way to burn calories.

What muscle groups does [deadlift, squat, press, KB swing, etc.] target?

We could make a list of a bunch of different movements and include the prime movers and the stabilizers here. Fortunately, there's already a site on the internet that has basically done this. Check out www.exrx.net if you want to go down that rabbit hole.

When designing programs, however, we don't really think of things in terms of "which muscle groups are working." While this is relevant information, this is – sort of like the calories discussion above – a reductionist way of approaching things.

Training is much more complicated than simply figuring out ways to get certain muscle groups to contract and then rotating through those movements.

We move in patterns – not just in terms of origins and insertions of specific muscles. In fact, the relationship between concentric and eccentric contraction of different muscles as humans move through patterns is so complex I think that we've only begun to scratch the surface of all of the details involved here.

Still, folks like Gary Gray have definitely done a lot to improve our understanding of both the concentric and eccentric actions of movement.

However, our brains think in patterns and will recruit extra muscles to get us through a pattern if we have mobility or stability issues with the areas that "should" be moving. These are the dreaded "compensations" you may hear of when people have what is considered improper form.

When writing training, we think much more in terms of patterns like squat, hinge, vertical press, and horizontal press as well as the primary goal of the session (absolute strength, motor control, muscle endurance, aerobic capacity, lactate endurance, etc.).

So, while we do write programming with the intention of not hammering the same muscle groups into oblivion so that training sessions are interfering with each other, our thought process is more about movement patterns, energy systems and motor control than it is about specific muscle groups contracting.

I want to compete in fitness as a sport (CrossFit Games, local throwdowns, etc). What does that entail?

There are two ways of approaching this. There are folks who are interested in competing at a "for fun" level and those looking to touch their maximum potential. The requirements and the strategies for both are totally different.

For folks looking to compete casually, they can still care about their numbers. They can still push themselves to improve constantly, they can still do competitions, and maybe even perform quite well.

For folks looking to maximize their potential, the commitment is entirely different.

A permanent decision doesn't need to be made out the gate, but, there does need to be an understanding that "Door Number One" is different than "Door Number Two."

Reaching your maximum potential is usually not in alignment with maximizing health and longevity. This doesn't just mean that you'll get more training injuries (which you probably will), it means that the volume and stress of training can have longer term effects on your systems (sex hormones, thyroid, stress response).

It also requires a consistent commitment, regardless of whether or not you feel like training.

If your goal is to maximize potential, we recommend working one-one-one with a coach doing individual design for you based upon your strengths and weaknesses, your movement patterns, your schedule, and your ability to recover.

We also offer Competition programming on our blog. Our group classes do not follow the Competition programming, but some of our competitors complete the workouts on their own.

If you're simply looking to compete casually, that is a much simpler goal. Our group classes coupled with a bit of extra work on weaknesses should enable someone to participate in local throwdowns. The commitment in terms of time, energy, and risk is nowhere near as steep.

There is some grey area between these two areas that can result in lack of fulfillment for some folks, but the key is to be honest with yourself regarding your goals, your lifestyle, your commitment, and your talent for the sport.

I prefer to train on my own.

Me too. I've been training by myself for almost my entire life. Sure, I've occasionally jumped into classes or done workouts with training partners, but the vast majority of my training sessions have been done by myself.

Group exercise is not for everyone. For some people, the fun, accountability, and coaching are magic. They get excited and they keep coming back.

For others, though, training is an introspective process that benefits from solitude.

Still, the benefits of having a coach are massive.

Even the best of the best have a coach. Michael Jackson had a vocal teacher. Michael Jordan had Phil Jackson. Mike Tyson had Cus D'amoto.

That's not to say that great performances don't come from folks following their own path – like Rich Froning Jr. – but that there is benefit to having someone who can guide you and offer feedback.

Each of us has blindspots and each of us has our own psychological issues. The best coaches are able to shine a light on areas where we're not realizing our full potential, and guide us through the process of making change there without falling into our own psychological traps and justifications.

At SLSC, though, we do value the individual process of training. We have many clients who train with us following an individualized program written for them by a coach, as well as many athletes who are following their own programming.

It's important to us to offer opportunities to train outside of the group classes, since not everyone's goals are best suited by a group class model.

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