With the coming of the internet, the fitness industry has changed radically. Back when I first started to train, the monthly magazines (for most of us it was Strength and Health) showed up in the mailbox. We often found one or two new ideas to try out.
With a monthly magazine, we had 28 to 31 days to try, test—and sometimes abandon—those one or two new ideas. Often, something would actually work and this insight would become part of everyone’s training. I used to enjoy the articles that combined Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and intelligent flexibility work in a program. Early on, I learned that it took a bit of thinking to mix grinds and ballistics. Progress was much greater when doing both, somehow at the same time.
Today, I opened my browser and found ads for a diet that uses “tasty carbs” to lean out. The next ads touted the benefits of low carbohydrate diets for fat loss. It’s a rare day when I am not offered a “special one-time low-cost opportunity” to buy a fourteen, thirty, or ninety day program that will morph me into the best shape of my life.
I always ask, “The best shape of my life for what?” I used to bulk up to 273 pounds, then lean out to compete at 242 pounds (110 kilo class). I have thrown the discus really far at the same time I had to catch my breath while walking up a flight of stairs. I was “in shape” to do the task, the goal, I had chosen years before in high school as part of an English assignment.
That’s the issue… “in shape for what?” I’m as guilty as anyone for listing challenges and getting some excitement going. The 100 rep challenge (picking one global movement and doing 100 singles), as well as the various deadlift, farmers walk, and squat challenges. Challenges have always been fun. Well, “fun” is an interesting word, but, if you are not competing in a sport, challenges have great value.
So, you want to be in shape for a challenge? This has value, but these kinds of goals often don’t open the door to further training improvement.
Assessments are great. I use the FMS, our own gym’s 1-2-3-4 Assessment, plus all of the various smaller tools, tips, and gadgets to assess where you are and what you need to address in the future.
Sometimes, you will realize that a test or assessment no longer really assesses or tests, and instead it has become a challenge. I used to use two basic tests: one-minute of push ups and max pull ups. I had a student who did 111 push ups in one minute. He was a short-armed wrestler and counting the reps was an issue at that speed. How could he top that score? I honestly have no idea. And, what would the value of getting to 112 reps be for an athlete who wrestles? Another student did 66 pull ups in a row. Again, he was born to do pull ups, but if you get half his score (33 for the math impaired), you are still amazing.
I discovered that most of my tests were becoming Marathon races or specialty events where genetics would trump actual training. While there is still value in a bodyweight press, and double bodyweight deadlift, as I worked through the assessment process, I added some built-in buffers to make counting reps more reasonable and that emphasized the importance of proper training.
I also began to realize that the Hardstyle Kettlebell Three (swing, goblet squat and Turkish get-up), plus my old standards—the push up and pull up—were an amazing testing and assessing toolkit. Below, I will share the movements in the order that I added them to our system.