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Art, Science, and The Weightroom

I have had a lot of conversations about the weight room, training, and coaching with coaches, interns, friends and family recently. I always find it interesting to hear the different takes, and viewpoints people have when it comes to training, however intelligent or unintelligent they seem to me. I want to share with you a few of these different topics and shed some light on a few thing recently.

I had a conversation with a fellow coach around some of the trainers which we know who have had larger pendulum shifts over the last year. Some of our colleagues have gone from Bro-Science preachers to seeming literature professors. Others have gone from highly scientific approaches in training to near or complete leaving of the science of training. I say the pendulum swings, because training itself is part art and part science. I see so many who focus highly on the science and in turn limit the results individuals can see in the short-term to keep them motivated. And I see many who completely forsake the science in pursuit of short-term results who end up crashing and burning

We have to remember how training is both art and science. Our goal should be to find a middle ground.

I had a conversation with a new intern this week about how it doesn't necessarily matter about changing the grip width on a set of skull-crushers we had an athlete doing during a hypertrophy block. Sure, we could argue semantics of joint and penation angles, or we could let the individual find something comfortable for them to drive output with. This is where art and science collide. We want to find the middle ground. And especially when we look at the highly variable nature of the human body, we want to understand the science behind the implementation of the art of training.

The art of training is to learn how to feel.

One of the colleagues the other coach and I discussed has leaned very heavily into the art of training. Training to failure, training by feel, and relying heavily on hard work and output. He's personally achieved some great results by doing so. But it is an art. RPE's, recovery, and intelligent training takes a level of intuition. Being able to regulate yourself is key. This is the art of training: to know the medium and be able to work within the limitations of it. Training without abandon and having no limitations is a way to create a huge colorful splash, but one which lacks long-term meaning. Without the name Jackson Pollock attached to it, a Jackson Pollock painting honestly looks like a little kid spilled paint everywhere. Likewise, training with no limitations or level of intuition is messy and disorganized. This is where science needs to come into play.

The science of training is to understand what is going on.

Another conversation I had with a family member this week, however brief, revolved around the recent incidences at Rockwall-Heath High School and the high school students who were hospitalized with exertional rhabdomyolysis. Their contention was one of acknowledging the pushup number listed and the workout itself wouldn't give someone rhabdo. My rebuttal was this, "It shouldn't have given someone rhabdo. But this neglects the fact it still happened." The science of training is this: to understand the physiological processes within the body and how it adapts to stimuli. This is the medium which artwork can be laid upon. The idea of workouts and training being a developer of mental toughness aside, having an understanding of the science of training would have prevented the situation from ever have occurring. It wouldn't have been a big deal, because it never would have happened in the first place. An understanding of the body and how it functions is crucial to making lasting results which go beyond the immediate. But science cannot fully take effect without art.

The weightroom is an expression of art laid on the canvas of science.

Hard work, effort, training, and results are pieces of artwork laid on a canvas of the human body. The human body is a canvas made of the interweaving of scientific processes. We have to understand the medium in order to fully express artwork. At this point, we have a great understanding of how the body adapts and responds to specific stimuli. We have a pretty solid baseline on how to create stimuli and develop it. This doesn't mean we cannot color outside the lines. We can rely heavily on the art of training, but if we don't understand the science then our art becomes messy. The paint we choose may not work well for the canvas. The canvas we utilize may not be durable enough for the paint we like to work with. The weightroom and training is the culmination of art and science. We should be keen to learn about such things, experiment with them, and find a middle ground.


When we find the middle ground of art and science, training can take on new forms and new expressions, and we are bound to achieve new results and better outcomes.

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