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The Cult of Shouldn't

Did you know there are trainers out there who brag about NOT using barbells? Others boast about never using 2-legged squats, only single and split leg versions. Why do you think they'd highlight their limitations like that?

The movement world has been chopped up into categories to create products. If your workout has a label or brand attached to it, you've invested in its limitations, not it's empowerment. From powerlifting to yoga, crossfit to pilates, cardio to weight training, mobility to max effort, we box ourselves in to very narrow views of movement and strength. So perhaps the evolution of these chosen limitations is to then create even narrower boundaries with what tools and movements we use.

You don't use barbells? Ya probably don't use big ass rocks either, but you may wanna consider both.

Strength training - and all physical training is strength training (yes, even what we label as 'cardio) - involves varying levels of force development. Low levels over long periods of time (that 'cardio' the kids keep talking about), or giant nut-punches of force delivered quickly. We're always addressing a point, or multiple points, along what I call the Spectrum of Strength, which I might start calling the Multiverse of Force Development.

When you zone in on a particular level of force development, you still have endless options in training possibilities. Gonna do moderate repetition squats today? Then the goal is to create a particular amount of force that challenges the body for that particular movement to progress towards that particular training goal. One particular little dot on the Spectrum of Strength.

Oh, but the choices we have, even within those limited guidelines. Tools, types, and techniques aplenty. How many squat technique variations are there? 6 hundred billion. including both legs, or just one. How many different ways are there to load the body? 20 flaggillion. From nothing more than your body to farm equipment and weighted diapers, not to mention speed variations. Any and every trainer builds their own journey of biases. Some tools and techniques we're going to have better relationships with than others, for whatever reasons. We can only hope that those biases grew from the sagacity of trials and testing with a multitude of clientele and a ever-growing philosophy of movement and strength. If free-thought is the navigator, then the choices we make, no matter how engaging and empowering, tend to be less dogmatic, at least in the way we'd share the information with the world. Because, from experience and exploration we understand Gibb's rule 51.: Sometimes we're wrong.

In other words, your training journey might very well lead you away from barbells or 2-legged squatting. But does it highlight your wisdom or your stubbornness if you proselytize how much you don't do them and how others shouldn't either? There's a big difference between new thought and just being contrary, and that difference is often in the teaching and preaching of what shouldn't be done. New, paradigm-changing thought comes from exploring what hasn't been done, but not at the expense of what has. If something isn't jiving with your current flow, you don't automatically throw it away. You aren't actively antagonistic against that tool or technique. It is not the enemy. In fact, you may find use for it again. Being contrary is simply telling us what we shouldn't do. It is a quick way to create a tribe to identify with, and be the leader of that tribe. Hence the popularity of the contrary leader in politics, religion, or industry. Slamming a fist down on the pulpit of what NOT to do and what NOT to like is an easy way to get noticed. But defining yourself loudly by what you're NOT often strips away a platform of contemplation. The irony of a diatribe preaching how you shouldn't tell people what they shouldn't do isn't lost on me. So, gentle reader, I'll leave you with this. When it comes to training, what shouldn't you do? Hurt yourself. But even then, I don't want to tell you how to live your life. Move. In many ways. For many reasons. Like these variations...


More about the Spectrum of Strength in my book, More Inclined Towards Adventure.

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