So upon my return to the blogosphere, I had a few topics in mind to kick-start things. I’ve experienced a lot in the past year or so, and it’s given me a great deal of “fuel” for discussion. The subject I’d like to go with today is one of supreme importance to anyone — and ESPECIALLY to fitness professionals!
More specifically, I’m talking about names. Titles. Labels. As time goes by, it seems that more and more of the bickering I see online and in my day-to-day life concerns which one to use for which thing. People are missing the bigger issues, and this bothers me. It should bother you as well.
To get things into less abstract terms, let’s think of a specific exercise:
^^^ I almost feel bad for “picking” on this exercise for so many of my examples, but it really is a wonderful teaching tool to get people to open their minds about what exercise really is and isn’t. Now when you first read those bold words, you probably had a certain image in mind. Something resembling a person bending at the knees and hips, perhaps as though he/she were attempting to sit in an invisible chair? There’s probably a great deal of common ground between most exercisers in terms of some of the general criteria that an exercise must meet in order to be deemed “a squat.” All well and good.
But what about the specifics?
Here’s what I mean — if you think hard enough, you’ve probably encountered AT LEAST one person who didn’t think of the exact same thing when that exercise was mentioned. If you’ve been in the industry for a decent length of time, then you’ve almost assuredly come across as many different versions of this thing we call a “squat” as there are guys named “Fred.” They’re countless. Some are labeled with specific names and attempt to dictate specific variations (“sumo” squats, siff squats, goblet squats, etc.). Others simply attach qualifiers (“good” or “bad” form squats and “deep” squats come to mind). But regardless, it seems that everyone has come up with SOME variation of this exercise and how they like to define it. This isn’t even touching on “splits” and “pistols” and the like. The same idea of variation holds true for countless other exercises that you think are pretty self-explanatory.
Now given that there are so many variations, how do you choose, and how do you make sure someone else knows what you’re talking about? Can you really assume that the person you’re talking to means the same thing when you name an exercise? In my mind, probably not. And this brings us to a rather obvious conclusion — YOU’VE GOTTA BE SPECIFIC!!! At the end of the day, you’re going to have to define the exercise you’re doing anyway. After all, exercise and training have to apply specific loads to your body in the way that is most appropriate. As such, we need to account for every position and force involved in the challenge we’re trying to accomplish. How deep do we go? How wide or narrow is the stance? How about hip rotation? Where does the knee go versus the hip? How much should we “fold” up or lean forward as we descend? These are just a FEW of the numerous questions you have to be able to answer with authority before you can claim to know what you’re doing. And each of these questions will be answered based on the specific characteristics and capabilities of the individual performing the movement (or preventing it)!
Sounds a bit daunting, I’m sure, but that’s what it takes if you REALLY want to be doing a proper job!
So how do we make sense of it all?
After a lot of thought and observation — as well as a good deal of personal experimentation in the gym and at home — I’ve come to the conclusion that there will never be a perfectly agreeable way to attach a name to something and assume that everyone knows what you’re talking about. That doesn’t mean we can’t use these words. On the contrary, they often allow us to communicate more efficiently and get a basic idea across. But when it comes time to design the workout itself, I would caution you all to make sure you’ve got a good idea of what it is you actually MEAN to do, before you do it.
*** NOTE TO TRAINERS — This is ESPECIALLY applicable to every one of us! There is no room for poor communication and ambiguity when someone’s health and safety are on the line! ***
So I guess, if there’s a take-home message to this rant for the weekenders out there reading, it’s this — It’s okay to be confused by a lot of the stuff you hear out there. And more importantly, NO — you DON’T have to use a certain special name for something just because some bro in the gym told you so. Call the exercise whatever you want. But just know that communication can always break down, and you have to be mindful that what you mean and what someone else means by a name could be completely different. Names, after all, are just words. It’s what we do as a result of those words that counts. More on this topic later.
Thanks for reading 🙂