by Johnny Pain
The following is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released “Greyskull LP Second Edition” which is available in the StrengthVillain.com store. This piece is the introduction to the long-anticipated exercise execution section. Enjoy. -JP
“Before I studied the art, a punch was just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. After I learned the art, a punch was no longer a punch, a kick no longer a kick. Now that I’ve understood the art, a punch is just like a punch, a kick just like a kick. The height of cultivation is really nothing special. It is merely simplicity the ability to express to the utmost with the minimum.”-Bruce Lee
There is a lot of money to be made in making things a lot more complicated than need be.
This practice of making things “proprietarily complex” as I like to say, is rampant in the strength and conditioning industry. Despite the fact that people in gyms all over the world with little to no training in the proper execution of exercises use them daily with great success, there exists a crippling belief in many that performing a proper squat or deadlift requires a textbook the size of a Philadelphia phonebook to learn from.
This belief is propagated largely by those who make money off of overanalyzing human movement and presenting their “findings” to skinny-fat internet surfers who know much more about training than the “bench and curl” meathead at Gold’s Gym, but who, almost without fail, fall horribly short to the meathead in terms of aesthetics, strength, athleticism, desirability to the opposite sex, frequency of sexual activity, or any other metric more valuable than one’s comprehensive knowledge of the biomechanics of the squat.
Simply put; One does not need an advanced degree in human biomechanics to successfully apply (or coach, yes I said that) the movements outlined in this book.
It is necessary to understand movement to the extent that you are capable of executing an exercise in a manner that will not produce injury, and which will be productive in terms of developing strength. Beyond that, most of what takes place on message boards in terms of “form” or “technique” analysis amounts to little more than the actual masturbation that takes place in front of the same screen after logging out of the strength forum.
The single biggest difference between those who do big things and those who do not is that those that do big things DO big things.
No amount of reading, or watching videos on strength training will teach you more about the subject than getting off your ass and actually training.
If anyone were to contest that idea (and there are plenty that do publicly or internally) would have to agree at the very least that it is impossible to make physical progress without actually taking action at some point.
A common experience shared by many of my consult clients looks something like this:
- Start training with little knowledge
- Experience noticeable, exciting progress in aesthetics and strength
- Develop an interest in training from the momentum created
- Research and learn more about biomechanics, programming, and diet
- Progress comes to a halt
- Blame halted progress on program, end of some sort of stage of adaptation, diet, or some other mechanical component that is not the cause
- Contact me out of frustration
- Re-discover simplicity after learning how limiting beliefs cripple one’s progress
- Divorce limiting beliefs
- Make significant progress again
- Enjoy training again
- Make continual progress
Overanalysis of this stuff will get you nowhere. This is the reason why people who post on the StrengthVillain.com forum looking for a “form check” from me get such simple answers. I give them one item to fix that will have the most significant impact on the movement globally, then request another video if I deem it appropriate. What happens almost across the board when I do this is the follow up post from some other knowledgeable and well-meaning forum member providing insight on the mechanical issues that I surely missed somehow.
What needs to be understood is that I DO see those things, I just do not care that they are happening.
“Correcting” them will do nothing more than add more items for the individual to consciously focus on while performing the movement that they would have gotten strong using “incorrectly” had they not contacted me or logged into the Internet anyway.
I can almost hear the internal dialogue:
“How does Johnny Pain not see him doing X?”
“His eyes/ears/ knees/ etc. are not in the right spot, how is it JP doesn’t see this?”
And then inevitably:
“Wow, JP really isn’t that good of a coach at this stuff”.
I recently had a conversation with a StrengthVillain.com forum member who has become a friend over the last several months. The topic of coaching the barbell lifts came up (OK, you know for a fact I did not bring that shit up) and he began naming a who’s who of “internet coaches” informally ranking them in terms of who was the best coach.
My name was surprisingly low on the list. I lost much sleep over this as you can imagine.
To this I simply asked what constituted his criteria for a good coach. His eventual answer had much to do with a “coaching eye”, an invaluable skill for a coach to have, and an in-depth, comprehensive knowledge of the movements presented.
I suggested that the best coach was simply the one who was most capable of eliciting reproducible results in line with the desired outcomes of the individual being coached.
Perhaps this was my way of making the rules work in my favor (my track record of delivering plus one for my clients is pretty damn solid), I don’t know, but I do know that the ability to deliver is what I look for in a good coach.
Delivery requires communication.
Communication requires acutely tuned senses and flexibility.
Neither of these things require exhaustive laboring over biomechanical texts that you could beat (or bore) someone to death with.
Presenting an idea in a sentence is better than a paragraph and represents a much clearer understanding of the information by the communicator. Presenting in a paragraph is admittedly better than a page, and a page is certainly better than a novel.
Consider the process of learning a foreign language in high school. There is a formalized lesson plan, a textbook, homework, quizzes, tests, projects etc. Recall the process of working through verb conjugation charts and translating lists of vocabulary words. Now ask yourself if you are as competent of a communicator in that language as a nine-year old child who grew up in an environment where that language was spoken, received no formal education in it whatsoever, and has used it to communicate and navigate life daily since.
Of course you aren’t.
Learning a skill does not require textbook, or even a formalized instructor. The perceived dependence on said people or materials in order to make progress is a significant handicap of the informed trainee.
The information presented regarding the execution of the movements in the following section is deliberately simple. It is without complex, anatomical descriptions of the musculoskeletal components involved, and similarly devoid of the idea that there is only one acceptable model for the movement’s execution.
You can chalk this up to my lack of knowledge, or you can attribute it to my having come “full-circle” and learning that a kick is a kick, a punch is a punch.
Johnny Pain is the man behind StrengthVillain.com as well as the East Coast’s notorious Greyskull Barbell Club and several other ventures. He is the author of several books on subjects pertaining to strength and conditioning. He can be found comically entertaining questions on his Q and A forum at StrengthVillain.com or can be reached for consultations, training seminars, or speaking engagements at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, you can follow him on Twitter: @thejohnnypain