Every system sucks and every system is great, it just depends on who is doing it and who is coaching it.
The truth is that every lifter is different and what is good for one is not good for all. Even if the system is good, if it’s not properly done or properly coached, then it will yield minimal results. Anyone who can back up his or her system with science and experience should think that his or her way is the greatest, and I have no problem with that. What I take issue with is when those same people want to write articles discrediting and bashing everybody else’s system. Why do they do it? Because it causes traffic and sells more of their programs. Well, I’m here to tell you the biggest bombshell in programming/system/method history.
Every program boils down to one thing: Pick up heavy shit consistently and, over time, you will get stronger.
There it is—the greatest training system of all time.
Now, I know that it will piss people off, but it’s the one fact that no one can argue about. And regardless of percentages or method, every system has that as its core value…and if it doesn’t, then the program flat-out won’t make you stronger. If you aren’t consistent, you won’t get stronger, and if you don’t pick up heavy shit that makes you strain, you won’t get stronger. That’s the simple truth. Yes, it gets much more complicated than that, but at its very essence, that is all there is to it.
Yet, in our small world this debate comes up every so often. Someone writes why someone or everyone else’s program is shitty or doesn’t work. Someone sites a study he did or his experience or whatever, and the other side sites his study or experience and all that is accomplished is that the original writer gets some publicity for his program…which you can now buy because it’s “the best.”
I have 20 years of lifting experience and over 15 years at a world-class level, and I have seen this cycle far too often. Mike Tuchscherer’s article about dynamic method was severely flawed on many levels (which I would discuss with him if he wanted since I respect him as a coach and a lifter), but an article isn’t the place to discuss the flaws because it isn’t a discussion—it’s an attack. The comments I saw on his article didn’t even address the fundamental issues. Instead, they attacked it as blasphemy to another program. Why couldn’t he just write why his program is great and point out the results he has seen? Well, because that doesn’t get people talking and won’t drive his sales. This is the same reason that some trainers say squats suck—it gets people talking and gives them exposure, which in turn sells more product for them.
With that being said, here are some articles for people to write in order to sell their own program:
- Louie is a Retard. That’ll get some traffic.
- 5/3/1 is for the Shitty Lifter. It will piss people off on this site, that’s for sure.
- Ed Coan’s Deadlifting Program Sucked. Always go after the legends to piss more people off.
- (Insert any of the 10,000 internet experts programs/methods/systems here) Will Give You Syphilis. The title alone will get you readers.
There won’t be any more validity to those articles than there is in any other article that attacks another system. Mike is a great coach, and I believe that anyone who is a great coach and a great technician in the lifts can produce great lifters, regardless of his or her program preference. For some reason, in this day of internet sales, people want to leave out how important the coaching is. They want to leave out the daily changes, the changes in the middle of a workout, the technical cues, etc. And these aren’t things you can get from reading anyone’s program. That said, I wouldn’t buy a program from someone who hasn’t already established himself as a great coach because he can’t even begin to understand how these things affect a lifter. With this criteria in mind, would I let Mike coach me? Well yeah, he is obviously a good coach and his system works for his guys. Of course, there are 20 other guys out there who can say that their program works for their guys too; however, there are only a few guys who can say that they have been creating champions and world record holders for longer than most of the guys writing these attacking articles have been alive. A big part of the problem isn’t coming from the guys I respect, it’s coming from the internet experts out there selling programs who 1) have never done shit themselves in strength sports, 2) have never coached anybody great (or even have the beginnings of a long list of great athletes), and 3) spend more time marketing themselves than they do in the gym training. But those internet experts aren’t concerned about that—they just want traffic, conversion rate, and sales. So, the good coaches must use the same tactics to get people to notice them as well.
Now, I am not above attacking certain people, groups, or ideas because it does make for fun articles, and I like to see people get pissed off, but when it comes to systems of training, everyone is missing the boat. What works well for person A may not work for person B. Now, it could be for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with the program. For instance, if someone does a program that he doesn’t really believe in, then he won’t make gains. Maybe it’s because he won’t follow it and will probably miss workouts because he doesn’t value the program. Does that mean the program isn’t good? No! It just means that it isn’t good for that person. I’ve been in this game long enough to know that if a coach has a really shitty program, but he gets the athlete to buy into it 100%, work his ass off, and be consistent and pick up heavy shit, then the athlete will get stronger. If the program is really bad—yes, he won’t see gains as quickly as he would if he were following a good program, but in my opinion, the coach is more important than the program any day. Obviously there are basic rules that no program of value can violate, but after that, it’s just a wide open slate.
Take dynamic effort or speed training for example. If you are an extremely explosive person by nature, then you will not get as much out of it as a person who is extremely slow. The dynamic work doesn’t change for each person, but the individual changes, and so must the program in order to maximize the athlete’s results. This is where a great coach comes in. The fact of the matter is that Louie is a great coach. I am a lot older and wiser now, and things that I perceived as dick moves or thought were totally wrong while I was at Westside I now see as the genius that is Louie’s coaching method. It wasn’t good for everyone, but it definitely worked well and continues to work well for a lot of great lifters.
I would say that, like a lot of these guys who attack other programs, when I was in my 20s, I thought I knew everything. My way was the best and everything else sucked, and while that still may be true, as I’ve aged and been around the sport for a lot longer, I’ve gained respect for anyone’s program that produces champions. You see, what people say is “Westside” training is not what is done inside the walls of the gym. But you’d have to actually train there to know that—not just read about it, quote Louie from ten years ago, and then say he doesn’t know anything because of an old quote. “Westside” method is just a template, and it takes a great coach to manipulate all the variables in order to get the most out of each athlete, and this is true for any system. So if you really want to be a better lifter, go get a great coach, don’t just go out and buy someone’s “new” program. Chuck Vogelpohl helped my deadlift more than anyone did, but it wasn’t because of his system/program (because he didn’t have one), it was because he is an amazing coach who flat-out knows how to make someone a better deadlifter.
I’ve seen people who have good programs, but they are doing all of the lifts wrong or are not pushing hard enough, so they get little to no results. And again, that is where a great coach makes the difference. For example, almost every lifter sets a PR at the Learn to Train Seminar, and everyone there uses a different training method. Why? The world class coaches can get more out of the lifters than their training partners can at home. It’s the coach that gets the PR out of someone, not a particular program. The fact is that no one program is the best for everyone. If that was so, then everyone would use it. It’s like religion, and that’s why I think people get so pissed—it’s all about what you have faith in. I believe in conjugate method, so that is my “religion.” However, that doesn’t mean that I have to shit on other people’s “religion”…ahhhh…I mean program. No one can ever prove that one program is better than another. The only way to do that would be to take the same two people (practically clones) at the exact same time and have them eat, sleep, and experience the same life stressors while putting them through two different systems. Obviously this is impossible, so no one will ever prove whose system is the best. Therefore, since it cannot be proven, then no system can be the best—it is just what system you have faith in and believe is best for you as a lifter or a coach.
I’d love to see all the infighting stop and for people to just admit that every program can work for the right lifter if there is a coach to implement it properly. But this will never happen. Mainly because it would be hard to sell your program like that and the egos involved are far too big. If the coach is good and believes in his program, then so will his athletes and they will get better. At the end of the day, the coach makes more of a difference than the program. But, of course, the “internet experts” can’t sell that…mostly because they aren’t good enough coaches.
So, from someone who has tried a million different types of programs and philosophies, and has been in this game for as long as most of you readers and article writers have been alive, I will tell you this: find the program that works best for YOU, find a great coach, and stop spending all your fucking time trolling the internet and bashing other people’s programs.
Instead, spend it lifting heavy shit.
For more on author:
JL Holdsworth, BS, CSCS, USAW Level 1
- University of Kentucky Strength and Conditioning Coach
- Powerlifting: 905lb squat, 775lb bench press, 804lb deadlift
- Featured in Muscle & Fitness, Powerlifting USA and Athletics
- Intern with world renowned sports medicine doctor, Eric Serrano
- Over 20,000 hours of practical experience
- B.S. in Exercise Science with minor in nutrition
My Training Philosophy: “Have a large toolbox, because if you only have a hammer, then everything becomes a nail.”
I believe in highly specific training for each client’s goals, specific sporting demands, and individual weaknesses. Most trainers put together a cookie cutter program and give it to all of their clients. However, my lifelong endeavor to learn about the human body enables me to bring each person passed what he or she thought was his or her physical limit. My programs address all areas of strength, the appropriate energy systems, and a systematic conditioning of the nervous system to handle increasing work loads. This produces maximal results in minimal time. I also believe that the Fascial planes are the gateway to a healthy body, and through myofacial release and highly specific stretching, this system is trained and improved. This individualized, whole-system approach allows goals to be reached faster and athletic ability to improve beyond what most think is possible.
BA from Wayne State University, Major: Exercise Science, minor: Fitness and Nutrition
Masters work at University of Kentucky in Coaching