This article is authored by Sunir Jossan. Opinions expressed may not be that of SMARTER Team Training, STT sponsors or constituents. Mr. Jossan is currently a Director of Fitness for the US Government. He has over 20 years of experience in the fitness field and has worked with a diverse clientele within the Government and Military. Sunir has trained thousands of individuals, designed countless exercise prescriptions and built numerous facilities around the world. Along the while he has had the opportunity to meet some of the best and bravest men and women this country has to offer. Listen to Sunir’s podcast on iTunes by clicking here.

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Training, what did that word really mean years ago? What has it morphed into today?

In the old days it was a barbell, percentages and increases. It grew from the body building community and slowly made its way into the athletic realm. The likes of Arthur Jones with Nautilus, and Boyd Epley with Ground Base and Olympic Lifts grew into a cult like followings. Both focused on productive training: progression, percentages, good form, hard work, and effort were cornerstones that ran through both opposing styles. Each program had individual that were almost “religious” about their dedication to execution, but both programs required hard work and dedication. No fluff, just hard work. Today, programs and tools look completely different.

Walk into any training gym today and you might be surprised of what you see. You will find the standard weight machines and cardiovascular equipment, but you will also find a large variety of colorful balls, ropes, boards, gymnastic rings, and lots of other training tools. These tools are supposed to be for only the “real athletes” or for the individual who wants to build more “functional strength.” You might speak with the trainer and they might tell you that if you aren’t using these tools, you just cannot be strong or fit. Some of these facilities might even look more like gym class than a training facility. You might find groups of people performing the same exercises; throwing balls to each other, jumping on platforms, rocking their bodies on pull up bars or hanging upside down. There might even be a guy or gal yelling out encouragement or some other form of motivation. Or you might find a group of people playing with a log; flipping it or dancing with it. All of this under the guise of what some current day professionals are calling “training.”

The days of training progressively, trying to increase reps or weight, and training with a purpose are slowly falling away. Look around, most people in the gym are not training to get stronger or lower injury risk. Most are concerned on how they look or how big their chest or shoulders are. For most it is about vanity instead of about performance. Trainers push the mentality through marathon training sessions and specialized supplements. The diet community has followed suit, rising to a billion dollar industry. They push looks in a bottle, and products and profits continue to grow.

Look around, the exercise community of today cares less about getting results from individuals and cares more about getting clients through the door. The revolving door. It is all about classes and group exercise, and variety – Aerobics, Spin, Zumba, Pilates, etc. Experts in every discipline have sprung up and certifications have become endless. Trainers are all pushing the same message; this program is the best way to train “and to get stronger” even if it requires a skill of balancing, perfecting these dance steps, or becoming a gymnast. All of this under the guise of training.

Just yesterday I saw an advertisement for a guy with what looks like a log. I clicked on the link and watched guys throw the log to the ground and pick it up, and twist and dance with it. Then, I read something about training with functional movement and bending, lifting and twisting and how this is more effective for me. I never knew that I could get more fit, more functionality fit and stronger, dancing with a log or throwing it on the ground and picking it up. Am I missing the boat? There is a huge following with this log stuff and a specialized certification. I bet they might even open gym centered around this log thing. All under the guise of training.

Maybe it is just me, or maybe I am just getting old. (I am a dinosaur in this field with 20 plus years). I just keep trying to figure out how we have gotten so far away from center. Personally, I try to stay in shape with cardiovascular exercise every other day for 35 minutes or so. Sometimes I go a little longer and I try and walk a golf course once or twice a week. I lift weight every third or fourth day very intensely with very little rest between exercises. I keep strict form with each exercise and try to perform slow controlled movements. I use as much weight as I can for 60 to 90 seconds per exercise. I perform one to three sets of exercises, depending on the protocol that day. I try to increase weight or reps or both each and every workout. For me its work – the hardest thing I do each week. There is nothing fun about it. It’s just hard work. I train my clients the same way (must practice what you preach). Lots of my clients come in with what they perceive as hard work. After a few sessions they quickly understand what intensity is about.

When I talk with other trainers and even lots of other gym rats, they tell me that I am out of shape – only lifting 2 days a week and only 35 minutes or so of cardiovascular exercise. I tell them that fitness has nothing to do with volume and that the quality of training is far more important than quantity. The light bulb rarely goes off unless I have the chance to train them or if they watch me train someone else. The fact is, I run circles around most of them, even if they are 20 years younger.

I am from a generation that is slowly slipping away. Work, dedication and effort were my parents’ expectations. I was taught those disciplines and they have resonated with me through my life. These disciplines are directly related to the way I train and the way I train my clients. Discipline, work and effort. It is the theme that was constant with the great strength coaches from days of old: Arthur Jones, Boyd Epley, Kim Wood, Dr. Ken Leistner, Dan Riley, Mike Gittleson, John Thomas, Ken Mannie. All names with common themes: Work, Dedication, Preparation and Effort. And then more Effort. No fluff – just hard, brutally hard work.

Some have passed away, some have retired. Hopefully their legacy will live on and smarter heads will prevail in this field of training and exercise. But as I look around I am worried. The balls, the boards, the rings, and the logs are growing while sensible training is being stripped away.

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