Organic Machines vs Manufactured Machines

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Organic Machines vs Manufactured Machines

If some of your life choices include imposing force on other folks, you might either be a dictator or a trainer. Although dictators seem to spring up with an odd (and frightening) ubiquity around the world, they’re numbers are dwarfed by the fitness mitosis that seems to create trainers in vast numbers, all duplicates of each other. The titles might differ… personal trainer, coach, strength and conditioning specialist, and good intentions might have started everyone on their chosen path. But subjecting another human to possibly dangerous forces should have a few more requirements than personality and good intentions.

clean workshop, 2012

In fact, the dubious job of changing lives through movement could be quartered into sections of equal importance:

Program Design

Sure, we could replace “technique” with “procedure” if you prefer alliteration… not sure how I feel about that yet.

We’ll be delving into these a bit more over the next few weeks, since these are not reserved traits for just trainers, but anyone wanting to pursue the strength arts to any degree. Here’s a minor run down of each category…

Technique: the How. Short term considerations: safest, most effective goal oriented movement. Not always “efficient”. Long term thoughts: longevity of body. In other words… do shit right or suffer the consequences. Maybe not today, but give it time, my friend… give it time.

Workshop at CrossFit REP in Austin

Program Design: The What. Goal oriented movement selection and execution. What path is going to provide to best outcome?

Personality: The Who. Motivation, support, leadership. The personality might show itself in the vibrancy and enthusiasm of an entire community, yelling about the beauty in their particular brand of pain, or it might be the volume of a single person, so loud that it strips you of any need to think for yourself.

Purpose: The WHY! The big missing component in a great deal of modern training.


Kyle and I battle for Playground King

Today let’s chat about Program Design.

We’re born with potential. This is what separates us from the other fauna on the planet, and that ain’t meant as a boost to the esteem of our species. Other animals meet their potential through preset software. We’re factory installed with only a blank map, an empty guidebook and a big machete, and if your tribe does its job of lurnin’ ya right, then you’ll end up pretty darn skilled at using that machete to chop through the jungle of bullshit.


oly lifting workshop, 2010

We’re manufactured from some DNA that demands a gallon or so of blood, sweat, toil, tears, terror and tenacity to gleam to most out of our flesh packets. We’re machines of a special type. Organic, biological. Not quite the perfect movers that some of the modern gyms are hoping we are. In other words, we are not built for many of the protocols our bodies are put through, not without some serious practice and training. The high rep workload trend seems to forget something crucial, a little point that Tommy Kono likes to drill into our heads every time he visits:

Practice makes PERMANENT.


That 50 rep set of pushups your WOD might call for today might see a handful of something that might be called a pushup towards the beginning… lets say 10 actually look good. Then the next 40 might turn into slop, just because you’re under the clock and gotta do those 50 with the goal of speed trumping all else. This isn’t program design, this is a joke. 10 pushups that might help the body, and 40 that suck… a 400% practice of slop.

Practice makes permanent… guess what you’re practicing?

And don’t get me started on the diluting of modern weightlifting techniques. Ya think a 30+ rep set of cleans will have any chance of making you have better technique? Perhaps if you were already an international champion, otherwise, ask yourself again what you are practicing.

Point being there is more to program design than workload, but so many of the trends in physical culture right now seem bent on more, faster. Not more, BETTER, which has been the fool-proof plan of the truly strong for centuries before hand. The body likes a good challenge. Good as in quality. There can be volume only if the quality is maintained. Otherwise it’s anti-fitness.


AJ drags a giant controller for the ol’ Missle Command game… or 100 pound water ball.

A manufactured machine is ready for it’s purpose once it leaves the factory floor. Rev that sucker up and expect horsepower, that’s its purpose for existing and modern technology lets us create it so it can do its thang fresh out of the box.

We’re not that machine. Our organic nature means we’re a machine that builds itself. if we skip this building process, we will break. Something we share with the manufactured machine is the little characteristic of a flaw perpetuating itself. If a machine begets a minor change in its structure that even ever so slightly changes the original plan of its movement, this will lead to wear and cause big problems eventually. In other words, anything that changes the correct process of the machine, no matter how small, will make a big mess at some point.

As an organic appliance, not only are your physical systems not yet up for huge horsepower tasks, you don’t even have the benefit of being programed with the right idea of what movement might be, especially if the workload demand is high. The chances of your biological packaging acquiring a misfire in its performance is way beyond that of a manufactured machine… heck, it’s almost mandatory. And the consequences are a bit more dire. Our machines, pretty amazing regardless, need programming and practice to be the best machines they can be. Remember that next time you feel like attempting a high repetition workout. Are you built and programmed for it yet.



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Showing 5 comments
  • mace

    Love it.

    I was just talking about some of these themes today with my buddy. We were discussing how the big box gym up here defines a ‘master trainer.’ Time under the bar is no where in that definition, unfortunately. Um, I’ll just leave it at that…

  • Tyler

    I love alliteration.

    Oh yeah, I guess this blog post was pretty radical, too…even with it’s tragic under-use of wordplay.

  • Mike

    Really good stuff. Thanks for sharing it…

  • Steve

    Another good read! Look forward to the follow ups on the other areas mentioned.

  • Brent

    Seeing if I can finally post a comment.

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