It’s unfortunate that the beginner/novice fitness market is poorly represented in a world of fitness books and products catered to intermediates and advanced trainees. Most books, products and services are offered with an an apathetic attitude towards the person who doesn’t know what a squat, lunge or hip flexor stretch looks like.
When they do offer beginner tips, they are either simplified beyond their usefulness, or glazed over in the first few chapters before getting into the exciting, advanced, cutting edge training techniques that are surely going to take you from chump to hunk.
As a result, everywhere I look, I see people training with a really poor foundation for success. How can you expect to get good at algebra without a solid understanding of basics of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication? It’s no wonder gyms are dreaded by the majority of people out there — only 16% of the population has a gym membership in North America and it’s much lower everywhere else in the world.
This book was written because more than any other athlete or experienced trainee I’ve ever worked with, I still enjoy the first few months of working with beginners the most. The wild-eyed wonder; the confusion; the questions; Not only have they elevated my abilities as a coach and teacher, it’s an absolute wonderful feeling to take somebody from confused to beyond competent in a gym setting. I like to say that I’m creating a gym ace.
As one new client recently put it, “you know since I started working with you, I have a new found appreciation watching people train at the gym next to me.” That’s how I feel almost everyday. The way the eyes of a beginner or novice light up after they figure out a training concept we’ve been working on for weeks, is incredible. The look on their face when they hit a personal best, or reach a weight loss objective, just gives me a rush.
That rush inspired me to finally put to paper what is essentially the basics of the process I go through with most beginners at the gym and make it accessible to all. Good levels of fitness, should be as accessible as the most basic of human rights; Things like clean water, shelter, food and education. Of course the intermediate and advanced trainee can still benefit from these concepts . In your development you may have skipped something and found success in spite of missing it, so it is worth it for you to get back to the basics on occasion as well. I consider that a diagnostic check in, akin to taking your car in for it’s semi-annual inspection. Everyone should occasional return to the foundations of training. The more solid a foundation you can build in the gym, the easier things are to maintain. If this book sets you up with a good foundation, the sky is really the limit in terms of how far you can take your fitness.
Don’t get me wrong, many commercial gyms out there don’t help the situation making people feel like paying hamsters on a membership wheel. I feel as if most people are turned away from the benefits of training regularly at a gym, or turned off from the gym simply because they feel incompetent or inadequate when they enter a facility. Maybe they just don’t like the atmosphere of the typical gym space too.
Typically we see all these buff and beautiful people working out hard, lifting heavy weights and making a lot of grunting like sounds. It’s intimidating and we worry that the physically elite may perceive us as unmotivated, weak or just plain lazy. When in reality they once started in the exact place you may find yourself now: Completely New to It All. The only thing they’ve done differently from you is learn the necessary skills for finding success in this environment; Skills, that you can learn too.
People generally fear failing or looking stupid and so ultimately never begin. Beginning is the critical first step. Mastering the training process is not nearly as hard as many people believe it to be, and those people grunting probably aren’t as bad as they look. Like so many other things in life, all it really takes is the right mentor or coach to connect with you and show you the ropes. That’s what this book is all about, it’s for people who haven’t quite found that person in their lives. Sure, my static personality on paper, isn’t nearly as as boisterous as I am in real life, but it’s a start in the right direction.
I’m a firm believer that skill trumps everything else at the gym. What most people don’t know about finding success there, is that skills can be learned by anyone, no matter how old, young or uncoordinated you might feel. Most people quit the gym because they never learn the skills they need to do well there. Maybe they come to believe that those skills are out of reach. Of course it doesn’t help that we’ve built massive commercial gyms with endless rows of machines that don’t require skill, but it is human nature to explore our surroundings and pick up survival skills. It’s human nature to want to achieve mastery, so long as we have a few small wins to start.
In the modern world, physical exercise is now a necessary skill for all to learn. Modern conveniences mean we sit more, we eat worse food, and for the first time in history, experts have started to predict that our parents might outlive our children. What would have been integrated into our daily lives as hunter-gatherers or even farmers, now requires our deliberate attention for maintaining a high quality of life. Only the way it sits now, there are very few programs available that facilitate the learning of these physical skills. We have a physical education system in shambles, the victim of a push towards athletic development, instead of, physical development.
Gradually I hope we’ll see this shift, as the concepts in this book are not overly complicated and can be taught to anyone with only a little bit of interest.
The process is actually a lot like learning math, there was addition and subtraction, then multiplication and dividing, then fractions and percentages, and squares with square roots. Unlike math, physical fitness is generally a little more interesting because you can literally feel the progress, but just like math, physical literacy is incredibly useful in life. Particularly in weight maintenance, energy maintenance, the prevention of injury or disease, and especially in the enhancement of your quality of life.
If IQ is a measure of the left-brained skills, you’ll find at school; Then this book is about PQ, or Physical Intelligence. Of course certain people possess higher PQ’s than others, just like IQ. I want to note though, that just like IQ, this is more a result of direct practice than it is some innate talent. IQ is not a fixed trait, anymore than PQ is, you can bump your IQ up 20 points with a little practice in a short amount of time.
The only reason I even bring this up, is that for some people with a currently high PQ, they may progress through this program relatively quickly, while others may need to cycle through things a bit longer. ‘Natural Talent,’ particularly when it comes to physical ability is perhaps one of the greatest falsehoods that modern science has completely disproven. You are not born with an innate physical talent, any more than an innate musical talent, nor an innate scholastic intelligence. Like anything else, you still have to work at improving your physical skill. Effortful practice is what separates the experts from the rest of us.
Of course, this book isn’t designed to take you from an average Joe or Jane to the next Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky or Muhammed Ali. It will only make you extremely capable of managing your own physical well-being, give you a great foundation and set you on the right path if being an athletic rockstar is a pursuit you want to take later. I have every intake to follow it up with more advanced skills and programming in the future, but this seemed the most logical place to start; The beginning. It focuses exclusively on teaching the foundational physical skills you’ll need for weight management, for performance or for just general health and fitness.
I’m aiming to avoid as much complication as possible, to deliver a program, that will take you from gym newbie to gym ace. I also want to prepare you for the fact that in some cases I’ve yet to find a great way to simplify important concepts and so the language won’t always be elementary. I’ll do my best to explain complicated concepts, as simply as I possibly can. This book will be more like computer software, it will start with version 0.9 and with your help, input, questions and criticism we can take it to version 1.0, then 2.0, and so on. The idea is to gradually simplify the concepts down to their most simple elements but not further.
I’ve been training for 14 years and still revisit these concepts in my own training regularly, manipulating them slightly as I learn more and perhaps dumping concepts that don’t seem quite as important for me anymore. Training is cyclical in nature, so you will most likely experience periods of significant progress, followed by periods of seemingly stagnant progress. This is normal. Ideally we lean you in the direction of continuous progress, or what the Japanese refer to as ‘Kaizen’ – literally meaning ‘continuous improvement.’ Work towards small continuous improvements, not just in the amount of weight you lift, but more so in how you lift it, emphasize quality over quantity whenever possible and a focus on the few other principles I’ll discuss.
Just when I think I’ve figured it out, I learn something new, even doing something I’ve done thousands of times before. You’ll notice this as you progress through this program, the movement will occasionally just feel a lot smoother, a lot better, in a way that is difficult to put into words. There is also a lot of advancement happening right now in terms of our understanding of the human body and how it functions. It’s still in it’s infancy, but as I become aware of this knowledge I hope to adopt it within this program. The industry is advancing at an incredible rate, but it’s important to keep in mind, that a lot of the best principles in this field are also timeless. Some things are just unlikely to change, so that’s what I’m hoping to tackle.
This program may require a bit of modification for each individual, and so you will frequently see me recommend hiring a coach who is familiar with the majority of these concepts and can help tweak the process to more adequately suit your needs. If the coach is good, you won’t need them for the rest of your life or anything. The process of building a good training foundation is always slightly different for everyone, and a coach can dramatically shorten the amount of time it takes for you to figure things out, and make them more appropriate to your situation. The principles I’m about to share are pretty universal, they have yet to fail me in minimizing injuries, while maximizing results. Of course I’m big on individualization too, so I’ll share some tips in making this program a little better for you, where I can, but nothing discounts the benefits of a good coach to show you how to make something your own.
In order to get the most effectiveness from this book, I urge you to read and complete the book in the sections they are ordered,. Skip things you know well if you want, but this book isn’t just about the workout program I give you, it’s about the concepts . The aim is to show you ‘how’ to workout, not just what to do. There are tidbits of information you may miss if you only glaze over the material, and skip to the workouts or exercises, information that may be vital to your success in physical literacy.
Do this, and soon you’ll be the person at the gym that every other beginner walks up to and asks, “hey, where did you learn that?” or “hey, what does that do?” All it takes is a little patience, a little reading and a little work. I’m looking forward to sharing with you, what I know now. Then share what you’ve learned. Taking it to the next level is made possible by mentoring others.