Read What Has Come Before

TAGS: Newton, Gill, McGuigan, Issuran, read, Stone, Kraemer, Matveyev, Verkhoshansky, education, Bryan Mann, roman

column-gray-032715

Since the time of the earliest man, we have written things to either record history or let other people know what we did, in hopes of making things better for the future. From cave paintings to scrolls to books to the world of blogs, written communication has been utilized to pass down information. For millennia we have had formal education systems that teach us to read what was done before and try to better it through experimentation.

Recently, though, it seems that some people don’t want to do this. People have become enamored with some of the things others have done, and look to try to fast-track their life and their career by making up something new. They make up the Whatever-Their-Last-Name-Is Method and create new training paradigms, which either don’t work or are—known or unknown to the "creator"—a direct rip-off of what has come before. They read a simple internet article that makes a reference to a classic text such as Zatsiorsky’s Science and Practice of Strength Training and assume that, since they know what one sentence was, they know the entire text. They then go base entire methods off this.


RECENT: Living Better in a Profession of Martyrdom: Advice for Young Strength Coaches


I will say that there are people who make significant impact to the field, and it’s usually from tweaking and repackaging things that have come before, after years of work and experimentation. One of my good friends is named Cal Dietz. Cal, as many of you know, has become famous in our small circles for his development of Triphasic Training. This wasn’t just some random thought he came up with one day and wrote a book. Cal has called or texted me before during the evening as he was reading a book on cardiac function and had an idea. He read a tremendous amount of material, looked at physiology, horse training, translated texts, and used a library that I would guess is full of well over 20,000 items and probably valued at $250,000. He tried and refined his techniques for a decade before he and Ben Peterson picked up a pen and wrote a single word. If you’ll read in that book, you’ll see something: a tremendous amount of citations and references. Many people talk about French Contrast and say Cal came up with it, but even Cal wrote that it comes from Giles Cometti.

There’s a lot of different concepts that are out there about how to get the most out of athletes via warm-ups (or movement prep, or whatever other name you want to call it) for them to perform when it’s time. They are looking for this one ideal recipe that causes the best performance and reduces injury to the greatest extent by some magical combination of exercises. If you read from Anatoliy Bondarchuk in Transfer of Training II (as well as Champion School), he addresses this. If the athlete is dragging and having a hard time getting going, spend a longer time doing slower movements before moving on to the faster and more explosive movements. So while some people are looking for this specific combo, they disregard what was written by someone else (who is arguably one of the best coaches of all time) because it wasn’t them.

Screenshot 2018-03-08 16.30.15

There are a lot of things that have been written: How to proceed from general to specific. How to progress jumps to plyometrics (yes, the two are separate entities). How to properly break up training total loads to ensure that there’s enough weekly variation to allow for the athlete to optimally adapt. How to utilize exercises that are not squats and deadlifts to enhance performance at different times of the year. How to utilize accommodating resistance to enhance performance. And many more.

I’ve many times used the quote from Isaac Newton that says, “If I have seen further than other men, it is only because I have stood upon the shoulders of giants." We have had great minds come before us: Verkhoshansky, Issuran, Roman, Matveyev, Stone, Kraemer, McGuigan, Gill, Newton (Robert this time), Haff, Fry, Zatsiorsky, Yessis, Bosco, Bondarchuk, Siff, Hill, Berger, Bompa, Knight, Issurin, Rhea, Baker, DeLorme, and the list can go on and on. Each person gave us some very specific contributions that provided more insight or a different pair of shoulders to stand on.

The person who thinks that they are looking at something new and doesn’t know those names or hasn’t read their works is someone who is not giving us something new. I don’t understand how someone can be so arrogant as to think that no one has had any great contributions to come before them that they could learn from. I’ve read books from the 1800s that contribute to my thinking. If we spend more time drinking deeply from these books, it does take time. However, does it take 12 weeks to run a training cycle to find out what did or didn’t work? No. You can gain the insight of someone who did the exact same thing as you were considering (or a form of it) and see what worked, what didn’t, and what to change. You can learn from the masters — what they thought and what they did to elicit the responses you want.

For instance, you may be thinking vibration training is something good for you to implement with your athletes. Bosco delved deeply into this and found that certain types of vibration worked better than others at different hertz (Hz) and amplitudes of displacement. He found that some methods of delivering the vibration were very effective and some were completely ineffective. He also found the best ways to determine how the person responded to the vibration in a very short time period. What about non-invasive fiber typing? Bosco published this in 1983. What about how to determine how to best implement depth jumps and jumping progressions? Verkhoshansky was on this back in the '70s. How about how to determine if someone needs strength or explosiveness? Zatsiorsky published work on this in the '80s. How about reactive strength ability? Been done too. What about loaded jumps and how heavy to go? That’s been done already.


LISTEN: NSCA's Coaching Podcast — Episode 9 with Dr. Bryan Mann


I’m not sure why people are not reading these texts. Sometimes it seems that 140 characters has led to an impetus on thought processes, and that they prevent someone from being able to read a book. In our instant gratification society, we think that we don’t have the time to stop and read a book. However, if we stop to read this book, we learn that by doing things in order, such as a system of conjugated sequence, we can have our athletes adapt at the highest levels possible. We can learn so much of what may be the next thing in our training from reading.

I also want to encourage you to read outside of our immediate area. Many times people look at heart rate variability (HRV) and think it’s voodoo and meaningless. I admit to having been one of those people. I then met a professor on our campus named Dr. Paul Fadel (who has since moved on) who researched HRV from the medical perspective and how the different parts of the QRS complex taken through the ECG actually meant something, and weren’t just squiggly lines. Some have read my study on the effects of academic stress on illness and injuries in Division I football. I have mentioned before that I knew I had something but had no clue what it was until I took it to health psychologist Dr. George “Brick” Johnstone, who looked at it and said, “That’s easy. That’s psychoneuroimmunology.”

While I did spend a lot of time talking about many of the authors of the past, please don’t think I’m forgetting the new or current people who put out great information (that usually have come from excellent mentors, such as the previously mentioned people). What I want to point out is that there is a lot that has already been done. We can also make sure to further progress rather than recreate the wheel by doing our due diligence as a field and reading and researching what has come before us.

Now, there is also something else to consider. In this instant gratification society, someone may be reading one article or book and pawning everything off as their own. These people often show up from nowhere and are gone just as fast. They have the promise of this nice, new, glitzy, glamorous house that has no foundation, and is blown away in the first windstorm. I want to paraphrase something a former boss of mine, Joe Kenn, said at his talk at the 2018 coaches conference: If you seek to make an impact, you’ll be around a while. If you seek fortune and fame, you’ll be gone in an instant. When you get down to it, it is about your focus. If you focus on becoming an internet celebrity, that’s fine. You’ll get some followers, feel pretty cool, and most likely never do anything of value. If you focus on mastery, you’ll most likely get attention as a side result of the great things you'll be doing at the pinnacle of your career.

chalk-all-home

Loading Comments... Loading Comments...