Is your trainer getting you results, or just getting you tired?

You know this image: Star athlete works out in front of the cameras, trainer sends it all over social media so you get to see 15 seconds of video and some photos showing him training like a psycho beast. You don’t know what he did the rest of the time, but for those few moment, it’s a great show.

You know why there are so few photos of MJ training in the gym?

Because when you know you can show the results, you don’t have to show the work.

Contrary to what most people believe, total exhaustion is not the ultimate goal of effective training; there’s a huge difference between an exhausting workout and an effective workout. An exhausting workout pushes you to failure. What happens when you work to failure? No speed, no strength, no explosiveness, no form…and no results. Failure in every way. Probably not what you intended.

Anyone can run your ass into the ground; it takes a smart coach or trainer to be sure you’re really accomplishing something. A trainer who is obsessed with pushing you to your physical limits every single minute is missing the most important point: Exhaustion is not the ultimate goal. Results are.

When someone tells me he worked out so hard he puked—and thinks I’ll be impressed—all I can think is, Was that your goal? To get sick? That’s not effective training. Even after you clean yourself up and get back to work, you know you’re not going to be able to give your maximum effort. You sabotaged your workout by forcing your body to train inefficiently.

Although I have to admit, it’s a great way to show a lazy athlete how out of shape he really is.

An effective workout trains and teaches the body and mind to consistently perform at a high level both physically and mentally. Effective training combines speed, strength, and explosiveness all at once, all three working together in full force, over and over, not just for one short burst of glory. Example: If your coaches make you do wind sprints to get in shape, what’s the end result? You might get some initial benefit, but after a while without time for recovery, are you still improving? More likely you’re just getting worn out, severely limiting your ability to improve in other areas. Exhausting yes, effective no.

Look, I have no problem with trainers trying to take an athlete where he or she hasn’t gone before…as long as it’s based on knowledge of the athlete’s body and evidence that the athlete can benefit. But too often, the sole purpose is to outdo the other trainers, and show some trendy new technique that benefits no one but the trainer’s Instagram.

So how do you know if you’re getting an effective workout?

  • The intensity level varies every 2-3 workouts

  • It’s okay to feel soreness at first when you’re trying something new. If that soreness turns into pain over a period of time, something is not right.

  • Beware of a workout that emphasizes speed OR strength OR explosiveness; those three components of athletic performance must work together and be trained together. If you just focus on speed training, you’ll get faster, but if you move on to strength training and stop speed training, the speed regresses. A good program allows you to train for all three at once.

  • And the obvious: Improvement. Does the workout translate into better performance and success for your specific sport or activity?

Bottom line: a great trainer won’t just push you to do more…he or she will teach you to push yourself. Crave the results, and the effort becomes effortless.


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