More on Single Workout

15Oct08

Nearly 2,000 people have read my post on how the composition of every single workout influences the effectiveness of the whole training program. Of all those readers, only one commented on the topic. Others described their experiences with crude simpletons who pass themselves for instructors and lord over the naive and the undiscerning enrolled in their classes or programs. The bad experiences described in the comments are typical—I have read many such stories and have seen such “instructors.”

I was hoping for a lively discussion on the topic. No such luck—I guess too few people have experienced flowing, optimally effective workouts, conducted by instructors who know how to compose them. This is strange—it shouldn’t take a genius to notice that if the workout flows, time flies as tasks are accomplished. The mood is great, and so are the results.

A well-composed workout is easier to conduct than a bunch of sundry exercises that, although related to the task, are not selected and arranged to flow with a given group of athletes. I have seen many “instructors” who throw exercises at a group, each one with a poor connection to the next; who wander around while the group exercises, trying to figure out what’s next; who stop the group after each exercise or drill to issue new instructions (because the consecutive exercises are so dissimilar to each other); or who with an air of authority order some random nonsense (to keep the group occupied until the “instructor” gets a better idea).

But if each exercise flows from the preceding one, all are closely tied to the workout’s task, and all match the group’s capabilities, then remembering what’s next is no trouble at all. At any one moment the instructor knows “where” the group is and “where” the group is going to be next. Yes, the instructor should have a clipboard with the workout’s plan, with columns on the page to note important observations. Most of the time, however, the instructor’s attention should be on the group, with only brief breaks for writing down those important notes in the appropriate columns of the workout plan. Sure, an instructor can refer to the written plan now and then, especially to check the numbers: reps, times, and such. However, if the plan follows the sound principles of structuring the workout, and exercises are sequenced well, then the instructor doesn’t need to refresh his or her memory often, or even at all, by looking at the writing.

Soon, the next topic….

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7 Responses to “More on Single Workout”

  1. 1 mtrowley

    In the UK, I have attended many well composed workouts, but these were all in mainstream gyms where the instructors use a workout that is pre-defined, that can normally cater for a full range of abilities e.g. Pilates, Spin, Step aerobics etc.

    Unfortunately, in the Martial Arts – and other disciplines I have tried there is one key problem – arrogance. Along with the superman complex which goes with many instructors around the abilities they have in their Martial Art, they also believes this translates into them being experts in sports science. I have first hand experience of this, as at a very young age took up the role of instructor (seriously – I was a 16 year old teaching a class of 30 people with no adults – with the exception of some of the class memebers), but at least I had some knowledge from the main stream gyms to at least do a warm up and cool down properly.

    So as a person that used to ‘throw’ exercises at people, as well as having many thrown at me myself – I am begging any Instructors out there is read and re-read Mr Kurz’s post, you will have more commited students who perform better.

  2. 2 explosivelyfit

    You are so right about making an exercise session flow with continually supporting movements for the trainee.

    I have been in gyms and watched as the pseudo instructor seemed to just ‘come up with stuff to fill the hour’ or worse yet have managed to convince the trainee that going slowly in the infamous ‘fat burning zone’ is the way to better health and fitness. It makes me want to vomit.

    What a terrible waste of time for the person paying the bill for this nonsense. If the exercise doesn’t improve the trainee then get it out of the schedule. And if the instructor doesn’t know what they are doing they should find another line of work; maybe selling snake oil.

    The bottom line is did the person improve in their sport or increase their fitness level or make strength gains? The truth is always in the outcome.

    Danny
    Explosivelyfit strength training and explosivelyfit.com

  3. 3 CSta

    “I guess too few people have experienced flowing, optimally effective workouts, conducted by instructors who know how to compose them . . .” With respect to martial arts training, I’m in that “too few” group. At the dojang I used to go to (I’ve quit MA) the GM did not have a formal physical education degree, and presumably he did not read sports science books or materials to educate himself. I also assume he was never coached by anyone who knew what they were doing, or if he had been, he never picked up the underlying principles of training. His students also lacked knowledge of sports science, so no one challenged his methods or logic. I’m guessing this summarizes the problem: instructors do not have sports science knowledge; students are just as ignorant and do not question the instructor; and therefore the instructor is never forced to become educated. Until the dojang-attending public becomes sufficiently educated to challenge instructors’ methods, nothing will force instructors to change.

  4. I think this has more to do with instructors’ personal culture and good taste than with their knowledge of sports science. It is a sign of disrespect for students and of low personal standards not to prepare for a workout. Examples of time-efficient and physiologically sound exercise sequences are plenty—one has to have very narrow horizons not to know them. It just takes good taste to appreciate them, and that is what meatheads and simpletons are lacking. All “the dojang-attending public” has to do is to exercise discernment and avoid such types.

  5. 5 CSta

    The issue of why “few people have experienced flowing, optimally effective workouts, conducted by instructors who know how to compose them” (entry 10/15/08) is very important to me as someone who would like to experience such a workout in a martial arts setting on a regular basis. I hope we stay on this topic for a while.
    The issue is important to me because I believe finding an opportunity to experience such a workout is going to be much more difficult than merely “exercis[ing] discernment and avoid[ing poor instructors].” (response 4 to 10/15/08 entry) Firstly, I believe there are very few martial arts instructors in my community that provide optimal workouts, and I’m willing to bet that the same is true in many other communities.

    I am persuaded that part of this void is caused by the presence of instructors with “low personal standards,” (response 4 to 10/15/08 entry) which I understand to mean the instructor doesn’t care enough to think critically about the construction of each workout or is too arrogant to admit that his or her workouts are not optimal. I believe, however, there is a substantial population of instructors in my community that are trying their best to provide the highest quality instruction, but they lack knowledge. As is stated in the 9/6/08 entry, “[h]ardly ever are [various instructors] taught how to compose a workout with those exercises for an optimal effect.” And, in response to that entry, one responder wrote, “I look forward to Mr. Kurz designing a video that will teach instructors how to teach and design a great workout.” (response 4 to 9/6/08 entry) To me, these entries indicate a lack of education and a desire to learn.

    I don’t think it is reasonable to say that, if these well-meaning instructors simply exercised common sense, they would be able to construct better workouts. While it “shouldn’t take a genius” to construct a workout (entry 10/15/08), I believe doing so does require some basic knowledge, for example, the “Principles of Conditioning” discussed in Article 18 (stadion.com/column_stretch18.html). It is this type of basic knowledge I believe the well-meaning instructors lack.

    Secondly, finding an opportunity to experience an optimal workout is going to be much more difficult than merely “exercis[ing] discernment and avoid[ing poor instructors]” because there are, in my opinion, very few martial arts students who are willing or able to exercise such discernment such that a substantial market for higher-quality instruction can exist. In my opinion, the goals of the overwhelming majority of martial arts students are (1) to have fun, and (2) to engage in a unique type of exercise, and so long as they (1) are not bored during class, and (2) go home tired, they are satisfied. Even if someone explained to them why their workouts were totally irrational, I’m guessing these students wouldn’t care one bit. They perceive themselves as being in better cardiovascular condition and being stronger, and they believe their technique improves with each class they attend. Remember your seminar experiences, Mr. Kurz?

    So, to conclude, for those of us what want to experience a rational, flowing martial arts workout, consider yourself lucky if you find a good instructor; there are very few of them (and they probably don’t practice the martial art you want to practice), and because there’s an insufficient demand for them, their numbers aren’t likely to increase. Until that circumstance changes, I’m afraid few of us will have much to contribute to the topic “of how the composition of every single workout influences the effectiveness of the whole training program.” (entry 10/15/08)

  6. 6 CSta

    From my earlier response (response #3): “Until the dojang-attending public becomes sufficiently educated to challenge instructors’ methods, nothing will force instructors to change.”

    On Oct. 31, 2008, the New York Times published an article on its website (it might have been in the paper too) regarding static stretching as part of a warmup. Gretchen Reynolds, “Stretching the Truth,” (nytimes.com)(Oct. 31, 2008).

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/sports/playmagazine/112pewarm.html?_r=2&ei=5070&emc=eta1&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

    The article explains what Mr. Kurz has preached for decades–that relaxed, static stretching prior to a workout is a bad idea because it weakens the stretched muscle and reduces the muscle’s elasticity, among other things. (See Kurz, T., “Stretching Scientifically: A Guide to Flexibility Training,” Stadion Pub. (4th ed. 2003) (first published in 1985).

    Because this article was published in the New York Times, it hopefully will read by persons who attend organized workouts (aerobics and martial arts classes, for example) but are not interested enough to investigate proper stretching methods and workout construction. Because of its potential to reach a huge audience, this is the type of article I hope will “sufficiently educate” the dojang-attending public. More articles on the basics of exercise science need to be published in such mainstream publications.

  7. Below are my replies to CSta (response 5 to 10/15/08 entry):

    “I believe there are very few martial arts instructors […] that provide optimal workouts. […] part of this void is caused by the presence of instructors with `low personal standards,’ which I understand to mean the instructor doesn’t care enough to think critically about the construction of each workout or is too arrogant to admit that his or her workouts are not optimal.”

    You put it too nicely. Actually, it means they are incapable of thinking critically. A sign of a true pro is constant research and self-criticism.

    “I believe, however, there is a substantial population of instructors in my community that are trying their best to provide the highest quality instruction, but they lack knowledge.”

    Knowledge doesn’t descend suddenly on the worthy—it is to be sought. That means reading and watching what others do, then thinking it thorough and applying the conclusions.

    “Finding an opportunity to experience an optimal workout is going to be much more difficult than merely `exercis[ing] discernment and avoid[ing poor instructors]’ because there are, in my opinion, very few martial arts students who are willing or able to exercise such discernment.”

    Well, to each its own.

    “Even if someone explained to them why their workouts were totally irrational, I’m guessing these students wouldn’t care one bit.”

    How about this explanation:

    A minute spent on the wrong exercises or on needlessly long transitions between exercises is the minute you don’t have for exercises that could make you a better fighter or player. Actually, with every minute spent on wrong exercises you can waste days (if not weeks or months, or even years) of progress and tons of potential.


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