About ten years ago I had the opportunity to help instruct a clinic with Charles Poliquin in Florence, Italy.  Charles has spent over three decades on the cutting edge of strength and conditioning.  He’s coached countless professional athletes and regular joes.  Not to mention his programming helped me win an Olympic Gold Medal and a World Championship in back to back years.  People all over the world seek him out for his advice.  I’m lucky to call him a friend.  You can read Charles’ blog at http://www.strengthsensei.com/

During the clinic, one of the young coaches asked Charles how he could grow his business.  Charles answered “Get bigger arms.”  Unfortunately, Charles was and still is right.  As in so many other cases, most people don’t spend a lot of time interviewing their potential fitness and strength professionals.  Instead, they look for people who match their perception of healthy and more often than not that means someone who is in visibly “good shape.”  The problem is that people with big arms and ripped stomachs don’t always know squat about squatting.  So rather than assessing your movement, correcting it either before loading or as you load, these “trainers with big arms” will often use the language of fitness and strength and put you through a 30 to 60 minute exercise program.  They’ll use words like HIIT, zone training, muscle confusion, and core.  They’ll coach with motivational cues like “feel the burn” and “embrace the pain.”  And you’ll probably have an amazing exercise experience.

Exercise is activity.

There’s a difference between exercise and training programs.  Commercial exercise programs usually have some fancy packaging that makes them appeal to a specific group.  For example you might see a spin class, a step class, a dance class, or a fight class with a hip name and lots of flashing lights.  The best ones are a lot of fun.  However, if you strip all the fancy packaging, loud music, and flashiness, most of the programs are designed for the same purpose:  entertainment while maximizing caloric burn at the expense of everything else.   The problem is that many of these classes have you repeat a specific movement over and over again without ever addressing the technique or other client-specific structural limitations.zumba  It’s exercise without purpose.   As a result, many clients often experience injuries or excessive soreness.  Interestingly enough, many clients believe they are responsible for the injuries, when they are really a by-product of poor technical instruction or no individualization.

Training is activity with a specific purpose.

A training program focuses not only on quantity of movement, but quality.  Training programs build a foundation for truly sustainable transformations.  They correct movement first.  Then, they progress you towards your individual goalSPARKathens_OG_0287s. During the progression, you might hear terms like hypertrophy, accumulation, intensification, and realization.  These terms mean absolutely nothing to most people, but your strength specialist uses them to apply specific frameworks supported by research to elicit a specific training response.  You might have a hard, ass-kicking workout, but that workout is a piece of a much larger puzzle.  Training programs require a lot of attention to detail and not as much concern for the flashy packaging.

We’re fortunate at SPARC to have an amazing facility, but we have an even better staff.  Our strength and conditioning specialists hold undergraduate and graduate degrees in exercise science, advanced certifications like the CSCS, and have years of experiences. We have some fancy equipment for assessment purposes and for those with special conditions, but for the most part our version of fancy focuses on teaching and loading proper movements to improve overall performance.  We have a variety of tools at our disposal to do this that we call Team Training, Small Group Training, and Private Training.

Team Training is a group, exercise programs with a focus on strength, movement, or metabolic conditioning. Small Group Training provides clients with individualized programming in groups of four or less.  Private Training provides one-on-one sessions and customized programming.