I will admit that most people I know would say I am eccentric, some would say I’m an idiot, and my wife swears that I am a bit psychotic. On the same theme, the following incidents I will discuss can only be described as strange. Honestly, I do not wish to poke fun at individuals or act as if I am without faults, but there is a major difference between stupidity and ignorance. Ignorance can be temporary, but stupidity is forever. As the nuns stressed at my Catholic school, “To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.” People become bogged down in their thinking and develop myopic views that prevent them from thinking rationally. Often, habit is confused with loyalty. My observations concern school coaches and weightlifting instructors that I have dealt with. I will detail several incidents that only lifters can appreciate for the sheer extent of the absurdity.

A young man who consistently lifts at my home gym informed me in a casual manner that the football coach was finally doing box squats and was utilizing bands. This came as good news to me in that I believed I had finally opened their eyes and they saw the benefits of this style of training. The young athlete continued and described the technique they were using. After prodding the student to regurgitate the story several times I was so confused and shocked that I didn’t know whether to scratch my watch or wind my ass. He expressed how they did squat off boxes, but the box was at least 24 inches high. When he and his workout partner decided to get a box that was 12-14 inches in height they were ridiculed and chastised by the coaches. “Man, why go that low? Squats are bad enough for the knees young man. Don’t push it.” Of course, the one young player stood all of 5’6” and he may have moved three inches before he hit the box. It is no wonder that this lad had an astronomical squat according to the geniuses in charge.

Here’s where it gets even better. (Editor’s note: I had to re-read this several times to make sure that what I read was in fact, what I read.) When the bands were added the coaches had everyone squat on top of the boxes. That’s right. To add tension the Einstein’s had the boys climb on top of the 24” box and squat. It never crossed their minds to loop the bands or simply to add more bands for increased tension. Talk about functional fixation. This could have been catastrophic to say the least. Now I realize why the coach thought doing bands was such a big deal and was dangerous. I totally agree with Mr. Dave Tate of Elite Fitness Systems and his views on an “under the bar coach.” None of the coaches I am familiar with have ever box squatted. How can they possibly correct errors and critique proper form when their ass has not been under a bar for decades, if at all? Should a coach have athletes do lifts that they themselves cannot do? I think not. If a coach cannot even demonstrate a lift then it should not be incorporated in the workout program. Don’t take this the wrong way. I mean that any coach on staff for that sport could do the lift. I am not saying all the coaches have to demonstrate an expertise in the lift, but please have at least one.

Someone once said that what you don’t know won’t hurt you, but it sure can amuse a lot of people. Where I work, I am constantly amused. How do you think I stay so young? Constant laughter is the key to remaining young. I do not have any weight room responsibilities at our school because I tried to be involved and it was a never ending battle because many coaches had their minds already made up. I do respect and like our current AD so when he asked me to order new equipment for our facility, I said I would help him. I had an idea of the type of equipment we needed in order to make our weight room accessible to all sports and athletes. To be diplomatic I went to several head coaches and had them construct a list of equipment they deemed necessary. On one particular coach’s list he wished for mirrors and lifting straps because his boys were having a tough time holding on the bar during deadlifts and power cleans. Needless to say, I purposely forgot about these requests. Let’s see, we get the OK to purchase $4,000.00 worth of stuff for the weight room and your top priority is looking in mirrors and lifting straps. I was waiting for this guy to ask for spandex shorts for everyone and a cappuccino bar. I suggested a new Reverse Hyperextension machine because we were having numerous kids complaining of lower back pain. We really had nothing in our arsenal that worked the posterior chain. Several coaches were perplexed that I intended on ordering something that did not enable you to look in a mirror and see the muscles working. I kept assuring them that this was a great purchase that would enable their athletes to excel and their programs would reap the benefits. I gave them a video of the machine and suggested they visit my gym to try one out. As you may have guessed, no one took me up on my offer.

The Reverse Hyperextension and the other equipment arrived shortly after school let out for the summer. I took it upon myself to assemble the apparatus so it would be put together in the correct manner. I stressed to one of the coaches to have the head coach watch the video with the entire staff so they would understand how the machine works and the muscles affected. The weekend rolled around and the kid from school showed up at my gym and informed the Reverse Hyper was being used but the coaches were using it in a very unique way. I inquired to how it could be used in an improper manner and he said they did it without the strap. This information was nauseating to say the least. I dug for more info and was told that the coach had them swing the weight up and then they would catch the weight with their Achilles. I asked about the strap that comes with the apparatus and the student said he too asked about it because the players were complaining about their bruised feet. I called my buddy who coaches and asked him if this was actually going on and he promised he would look into it. It was. The head coach said he did not want to watch the tape of how to use the machine because it’s a man thing. Guys don’t use directions. I thought this was a snide comment coming from someone who looked like a monkey screwing a football, not someone coaching it.

Other mainstays in the workout regime of our football program are bench presses and military presses. This is pretty standard for any workout program. However, for added benefit I am willing to bet they bench with their feet off terra firma and they do not initiate the military press starting on the cervical area. That’s right. Apparently benching with one’s feet in the air really isolates the pecs and insures that maximum poundage can be lifted. Remember, powerlifters cheat because they arch. Forget about the stretch reflex on the military press. Hell, we’ll even use it as a max for our record chart. The coaches must have some sort of conspiracy with the local orthopedic doctors. Hey, just bear with us, in a few years you’ll have a rotator cuff surgery per week. I have tried repeatedly to get the coaches away from the military press behind the neck. I do admire their loyalty to this obsolete and dangerous exercise. Weightlifting Benedict Arnolds they are not.

PE instructors also moonlight as comedians. We have an old inclined lever row in our school weight room and it is seldom used. Everyone likes to do lat pull-downs because they can view themselves in the mirror. However, based on the advice of one of our PE teachers it is best that the student population steer clear of the row machine. The now legendary story began a couple of years ago when our new PE instructor was hired. He was a coach, but he was assigned to teaching our advanced weightlifting class. The first week of school he decided to walk around and demonstrate all the equipment. Not a bad idea. He arrived at the row machine and had a student get on the ground and go in a supine position in front of the machine. Several knowledgeable students were beginning to ponder just what this new guy was trying to do. One tried to intervene and express his concerns regarding the use of the machine. “Hey! I’m in charge,” was the retort of the teacher. The student bit his lip and questioned whether he had actually been duped by other coaches who showed him the correct manner the row should be done. Did this guy know more than the others? Was he experiencing the musings of a great iron guru? Hell no! The teacher was demonstrating that the row was actually a leg press. He had the student put his feet on the handles and push up. Could someone do leg presses this way? I guess, but I could also do presses for my shoulders on the leg press. When a student said he thought it was actually for the back and showed the instructor, the teacher just said that he would have never thought of that. HMMMMM………….

The stories could go on and on, but you get the point. In my personal experiences I have discovered that most coaches are arrogant from the standpoint of always believing they know more about everything and what’s right for their team. They tend to be timid of change and they would rather jump on the bandwagon then be trendsetters or innovators. This must serve as a sort of defense mechanism in that if they fail they can say well we did the same thing as them and they were successful, so it must be our kids. It could not possibly be our fault. The typical coach follows a general one size fits all weightlifting program and often tries to mold several formulas into one. If you try to discuss lifting with them they never take a stand. It is like Harry Truman quipped, “Give me a one armed advisor because I am tired of hearing, “But on the other hand...” I am a pariah in the school’s weight room because I overtly display my disgust with the coaches and their approach to lifting. They are selling the kids short because of their ignorance. The bright spot is that hopefully it is only temporary.