This article is authored by Eric McKay. Opinions expressed may not be that of SMARTER Team Training, STT sponsors or constituents. In 2009, Erik opened No Bull! Strength and Performance, a personal training facility with an emphasis on individual attention and educating his clients on proper strength and conditioning technique. He is also an adjunct professor of physical fitness and wellness at Lansing Community College, and the strength and conditioning coach for the Lansing Community College softball team, a perennial powerhouse program in the National Junior College Athletic Association. Before starting his own business he was a football coach for 11 years at various levels and has worked strength training and conditioning family, friends, and athletes from numerous sports for over 20 years.

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The way I see it you must stick to the basics… work safely, work hard, work intensely, work consistently, work progressively, work efficiently, work smart, and work effectively. There is no supplement to hard work. Nothing seen in infomercials is worth your time and money. None of these buzzword-inspiring, moneymaking schemes are worth your time and money. If you train consistently, in a safe and intense manner, working the muscles in the direction of the muscle fibers that is all that is needed. There is no reason to train specifically just the “core”- start with big and work small. Meaning start with the neck, then move to the legs and work to the upper body, midsection, arms, and grip.

Functional training is another gimmicky, buzzword type of training. Anything that is done that improves the function of the body is considered “functional.” Any type of training that requires the body to do multiple movements at one time hinders the ability to focus on getting stronger. The more movements, activities, or tasks done at the same time, increases the chance of injury or making mistakes. That fact right there would remove more that half of the exercises that many personal trainers, fitness instructors, and strength coaches utilize. I have seen many videos utilizing stability balls and BOSU balls while strength training whether standing, sitting, kneeling, or laying on these silly implements… the problem again comes down to the inability to focus on getting stronger because of the instability. Instability does not help in strength training; it hinders. Stability comes from the ability of the muscles to work with and against each other to keep a particular joint or body part in the desired body position or plane. The stronger the muscles are the better the stability will be once the person learns how to recruit the right muscles.

Another argument for using some of these gimmicks and fads is to improve balance. Balance and stability is the same thing, they are synonyms. In order to improve balance one needs to improve overall strength in the muscles of the body and then practice the exact skill in which balance and stability are needed. Which brings me to another gimmick… sport specific strength training. Sport specific strength training does not exist; sport specific training however does exist, it is otherwise known as practice! Do not worry about trying to do movements that will “transfer” over into sports. Start training to prevent injuries and get stronger. When that happens performance will improve as well. Once the individual has gotten stronger they go out and practice the exact movements that their activity requires and learn how to use the newfound strength.
Stick to the basics.

Strength training is not complicated, what makes it complicated is all of the different organizations with different philosophies starting their own “scientific” journals that members and non-members will read and none of them can come to a consensus. Each of these “scientific” journals will then publish “research” and that research amazingly finds results that will prove the philosophies of the given organization. Others may not see it this way, but that is how I see it!

P.S. Keep in mind the more you try and do; the less you do well!

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Erik McKay BS, MA, CSCS, Kinetics Coach earned his B.S. and M.A. in physical education at Central Michigan University. While at CMU he worked with the Center for the Enhancement of Physical Education Programming and gained additional experience developing K-12 physical education curriculum with a focus on proficiency in the knowledge of proper form and execution of motor skills, and taught strength and conditioning courses as a graduate assistant. Erik went on to earn the Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach designation from the National Strength and Condition Association, the premier certification in the fitness field. Coach McKay can be reached via email by clicking here.