Want to train like an Olympic athlete? Why?

By September 25, 2017Rehabilitation, Training

There’s a false connection often made in the exercise industry between elite athletes and the exercising public.

The promise of training like an Olympian is used to sell personal training and even personal training certifications within the industry.

Training like an Olympic athlete

Let me ask you this, as Tom Purvis recently stated on Ben Pakulski’s excellent podcast, is the main problem in society that people need to improve their vertical jump height, or bench press their own body weight?

Probably not right? On my travels I see people of middle age who can’t even get out of a tube seat without assistance. Assessing their vertical jump height is not going to help anything when they probably can’t get themselves off a toilet adequately.

These assessments and the training methodologies that seek to improve them are therefore beyond the capacity of 98% of the population.

Plyometrics, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), sled pushing, tyre flipping and 1 rep max tests are all largely irrelevant to the average gym user and yet it’s these training methodologies that form the mainstay of personal training in the majority of gyms.

Worse still is the growing popularity of Olympic weightlifting in exercise classes such as Crossfit.

How does picking up a weighted bar from the floor super fast and getting it over your head help the average City worker who just wants to get stronger?

It doesn’t. In fact in most cases it’s entirely counterproductive.

Olympic weightlifting is a sport, getting good at it involves learning a skill. In doing so there is a distinct possibility you will get injured no matter how good the coaching is. When you introduce speed to weightlifting that’s the inevitable consequence as the forces that are applied to your body increase exponentially.

Training involves applying force to your body in order to create an adaptation to reach a given goal. In order for that process to occur with the least amount of risk, your exposure to those forces should be matched as precisely as possible to what you’re currently able to tolerate. Anything outside that becomes a risk. The greater the forces applied, the greater the risk and the less likely you are to adapt.

For most people, including many elite athletes, the risks of this type of training will greatly outway the benefits.

The wider impact of applying unsuitable training techniques to the general population is that people decide exercise isn’t for them when they don’t make progress or get hurt. That’s a real shame and a missed opportunity.

If we are to address the major challenges that an aging population demands, we need to tailor training exactly to where people are at and progress them accordingly.

Elite sport doesn’t have anything to do with that. Just as Formula 1 doesn’t really bear much relevance to the car you use to get your shopping.

The vast majority of people are not elite athletes and training like one won’t make them one. The sooner the exercise industry wakes up to that fact the better.