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4 Reasons the Game is Always Changing in the Fitness Industry

Written on December 7, 2012 at 9:08 am, by Eric Cressey

Yesterday, a reporter for MLB.com came by Cressey Performance to interview a few of our major leaguers.  While there, he asked me my take on whether or not I thought players’ off-season preparation changes dramatically from year to year. My answer was something to the effect of:

The fitness and strength and conditioning industries as a whole change significantly each year, so that would certainly be the case in baseball, which features throwing – the single fastest motion in all of sports – and alarmingly high injury rates at all levels.  Guys certainly have mainstays that they stick with regardless of the points in their career, but with innovation as prominent as it is in our field, I change quite a few things each year with how we prepare our guys.

With that in mind, I thought I’d highlight four things that have forced innovation in the way that we train athletes and general fitness folks alike.

1. New Research

There are more scholarly journals – and research review services summarizing these publications – than ever before.  Even if you aren’t trained in research methods, you can easily get access to interpretations of these research studies via those who are.  And, just by looking around online and attending seminars, you can see how other coaches and trainers in the field are integrating this new research in their programs.

2. Better diagnostic procedures, physical therapy treatments, and surgical interventions.

Nobody had ever heard of a sports hernia or femoroacetabular impingement before the last 10-15 years, yet nowadays, they’re incredibly common diagnoses in athletes involved in violent extension and rotation.  And, taking it a step further, when you can diagnose something, you have to be able to treat it – whether it’s conservatively or surgically.  Diagnostics, surgeries, and PT all give rise to the need for more trainers to understand new conditions – both from prevention and post-rehabilitation standpoints.

3. More competition.

When you’re King Crap on Turd Mountain, there really isn’t much incentive to try to better yourself.  Nowadays, though, while the fitness industry at times is perfectly described as “Turd Mountain,” there is no definitive “King Crap.”  This is especially powerful when you consider that the industry is moving toward more and more specialization.  People are focusing on specific athlete/client populations and still not differentiating themselves as the absolute best.  As a result, everyone who wants to be near the top really has to bust their butts.

As an interesting parallel to this, try to name a major professional sport where one athlete is so far superior to all the rest.  I’ll give you Usain Bolt, but in every other major discipline, there is a far more even playing field.  I think innovations in strength and conditioning have played a big part in that.  Outstanding fitness can make up for a lot of what high level athletes may lack in raw talent/skill.

4. An aging clientele.

Anyone who has outstanding client retention can attest to this: people change over the course of the many years that you train them.  I’ve trained 13 year-olds who have gone on to be taken in the MLB draft.  I’ve written letters of recommendation for former high school athletes to get into medical school.  I’ve watched how career and financial success can change exercise adherence both for the good and bad.  And, I’ve learned that training single athletes is much different than training those athletes when they’re married and have children. Heck, pretty soon, I’ll be training their kids, too!

Aside from these social factors, people’s bodies change.  There may be fluctuations in life stresses that may impact what they can do in the gym. There may be aches and pains over the years around which you have to work. An offensive lineman might decide he wants to lose 100 pounds after his playing career is over. A client may even finally have a hip replacement they’ve been putting off for a decade. 

The point is that you have to be educated in order to adjust to clients as they evolve as people.  And, in order to do that, you have to be educated – and stay educated.

This is one reason why I’m so proud to be a part of the Elite Training Mentorship team.  Twice each month, this site updates with in-services, exercise demonstrations, case studies, sample programs, and webinars to keep you up-to-date on what’s going on with the fitness industry.

I’m excited to announce that through tonight at midnight, you can get 30 days of Elite Training Mentorship for just $1 – and to sweeten the deal, we’re offering the entire Fitness Business Weekend seminar (twelve 45-60 minute presentations) as a bonus to those who sign up.  This is an absurdly good value, so don’t miss out.  Click here for more information.

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  • George

    “As an interesting parallel to this, try to name a major professional sport where one athlete is so far superior to all the rest.”

    Challenge accepted. -_-

    http://bigmouthsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/gretzky-cup-8-december-2010.jpg

    /obligatory hockey fandom

  • http://www.math.upenn.edu/~jkariv Jonathan Kariv

    On the sport where someone is uber dominant.
    94kg Oly lifting : Ilya Ilin
    shw oly lifting: Bedhad salimi
    sure it depends on weather you consider these seperate sports.

    In powerlifting Sergei F at 59kg and olech at 74(up until last month noone was close).

    Klitcko brothers in boxing and williams sisters in tennis if they didn’t have to contend with there siblings (if the goal is existence of outliers then maybe).

    Yeah I realize there are (I think mild) cavaets to all of these, but notice that the sports where it’s easiest to claim a super-dominant star are ones where it’s easy to MEASURE individual performance. It’s comparitively very easy to see who is on top in weightlifting or sprinting (where performance is measured by a scalar) vs say boxing or tennis.

  • Steve

    I agree with your main point, but other dominant player examples might include:

    Anderson Silva – MMA (current)
    Roger Federer – Tennis (recent past)

  • Shane

    Eric, what are some of the journals/ research review services summarizing these publications that you recommend? Thanks

    Shane

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Shane,

    I don’t use one, but both Bret Contreras and Shawn Thistle provide good ones.

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Steve,

    Good points. Federer might be a stretch. Nadal is 18-10 against him over the past nine years!

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    George,

    Issue with using Gretzky as an example is that he played before the era that strength and conditioning changed the game. Look at what has happened to guys like Lemieux, Lindros, Crosby, and Ovechkin as the game has gotten more physical. The playing field is a bit more even.

  • Drew

    Michael Phelps…? Seriously?

    Haha got yourself in trouble with that statement.

  • http://www.personalbestpersonaltraining.com Kathy Ekdahl

    The BEST part of this article is your statement..
    ” You have to be educated in order to adjust to clients as they evolve..”
    It’s wonderful to train young ladies and men between the ages of 16-25, at the peak of their physical abilities and prowess. But no one stays that age. I love that you so emphasize that ALL clients deserve the same attention, skills, and educated fitness programs that you give your pros.

  • Ben

    The thing about research in strength and conditioning is that most of it sucks. The majority of studies are poorly designed and worse, most “exercise scientists” do not train. So it is common to see things like performing an experiment (with machines) on an untrained population and then extrapolating the results to everybody, or a study that “proves” that the hamstrings work just as hard in a front squat as in a low bar back squat which is impossible because they are more contracted in the former.

    Of course I know you’d rather adopt something learned by experience than concluded in some study, but there is still a little research out there that is actually well done by qualified people. I never bother looking for it because it is buried in Turd Mountain. How do you find it? How do you know it when you see it? Most studies I’ve seen don’t give a good explanation of their methods and definitions (eg how were subjects’ squats performed?)

  • http://www.miketnelson.com Mike T Nelson

    King crap on turd mountain—hahhahaha I love that one!

    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  • http://activeconcepttraining.com chad

    Out of all Eric said, most of the comments are on who is dominant in sport?

    Why not ask Eric about why fitness is leaning towards specialization? There was a time when doing “corrective” exercise was considered “out of scope” for one’s training certification (if that’s all one had.)

    I’ll give a 5th reason. Our industry is the only one in the field of healthcare that does not require an upper level degree or internship to become “certified.” Hell, even massage therapists have to have a state license.

    Good thoughts Eric as always.

  • http://ericcressey.com Eric Cressey

    Great points, Chad. Thanks for the post.


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