Second Excerpt: We all train the same.

One of the things that intimidated the hell out of me back in the early 90’s was the huge amount of training systems available, and trying to choose between them. Bulgarian. Russian. Go to maximum every day if you want to progress. Going to max too often stunts progress. Pulls are key. Pulls are useless. The Hatch system. The Calpian system. The Greek system.

How do you choose? I mean even the most productive coaches argue endlessly about what is right and what is wrong, how in the world is a beginner to know?

I heard something from a Bulgarian lifter a few years back that really made me stop and think about this. He said “Why is everyone in the US always arguing about what training system is best? We all do the same system. We snatch, we clean and jerk, and we squat. The rest is just useless details.”

The more I thought about this the more it made sense, and it even made me smile a little bit. I mean, if you think about all the things people do in the weight room, we weightlifters do all train pretty similarly, don’t we?

If you put 3 weightlifters training their snatch in a group of 100 “regular guys” in a gym, will it be hard to spot the weightlifters? Will it matter if one of them is doing snatch pulls, or one is power snatching? Will it matter if one is going to maximum then dropping down to do some lighter doubles, and the other is working with percentages, starting with a series of doubles at 80 and 85 percent, then ending with singles at 90, 92.5, and 95 percent?

No, of course it won’t matter at all. One would instantly know who the weightlifters are. What they are doing is alike enough (and different enough from what all the “regular guys” are doing) to immediately know they are all doing the same sport, something different than the others.

Makes me think about how similar this situation is to playing the piano. Now, I don’t know anything about learning to play the piano. I have no musical instruction or talent whatsoever. But I know that the most important fact about learning to play the piano is that you will have to sit down at the piano and make an attempt to hit the right keys at the right time with the right fingers. Strumming a guitar won’t do it, running or lifting weights or perfecting your jump shot won’t do it, only sitting in front of that piano will do it. Sure there are good piano instructors and bad piano instructors, and I would imagine that there are a whole bunch of different methods and drills and theories about how to best learn to play. But isn’t the particular method or drill pretty irrelevant compared to the fact that you are sitting in front of a piano and hitting keys as opposed to outside working on your jump shot?

When you realize that the most important thing about the training of a weightlifter is that we train the snatch, the clean and jerk, and squat, and that the rest is just details (and it might not even matter how the details get filled in), the whole process gets a lot less intimidating.


9 responses to “Second Excerpt: We all train the same.

  • Jeff

    This is a great post. This relates to a lot of things in life. Oh I want to work out or run, but I don’t know the best way to. Just get in the gym and start trying different machines or just go for a run.

  • Markus

    Hi Glenn, I’m just another guy who wants to encourage you to complete that book you began – hope enough other people join with encouragements so you get overwhelmed and do it :).

  • saulj

    I coach weightlifting and I am learning to play the piano. I was wasting time on Facebook, but now I am going to practice piano. Thanks. One more thing to add. Even working out or playing piano for 20 min/day is way better than nothing especially if it is structured. Looking forward to your book!

  • Bhg

    This is spot on. The similarities between the systems exceed the differences by far. Losing sight of this is akin to not seeing the forest for the trees.

  • akismet-c6c95ac532ed849442cfe993e5727767

    I love the fact that this topic is being raised and demystified. I have had numerous discussions on programming, workload, where to start. My answer is always the same

    It’s the 10, 000 hours rule.

    Want to be an expert on something? Then spend 10, 000 hours on it.

    Get on the bar and start lifting. Then do it again.

    Enjoying the excerpts! Cannot wait for the book


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  • The Mind is Willing but Totally Knows Better « The Practical Problem Solver

    […] complex motions that have a higher chance of injury when performed incorrectly. Glenn Pendlay has a great blog entry where he talks about how there are tons of different training programs all claiming to be the best, […]

  • krijnnl

    in the eighties I trained with a world recordholder in the squat. his name was cees de vreugd (RIP). he more or less said the same thing. be honest toward yourself (build, proportion etc) find the right squat stance for you and start squatting. his program was basically. 3×5 later on 3×3 and a double just before the meet. at the gym we build our strenght and during a competition we demonstrate that strenght. break records, take a good holiday and enjoy. at 58 and reflecting on myself. I had a ‘ natural raw squat of around 160 kg. I took six 50 mg winstrol inject.a week and soon after I squated 300 kg at a meet. no change in training programs. now I wonder what has happened these days. we see trainers like louie simmons, rippetoe.pendlay. all serious people, yet they disagree politely with each other. I consider myself an observer. I do not know a thing about hip flexers, teres major etc., but when I see a person squat I try to see ‘ trough’ it. most guys would take a collar to collar grip in the old days (powerlifting). it would relax the shoulder and that was a good thing they argued. oeps…recently I tried wide stance squat to improve my close stance. nothing happened. it got even worse than that. I am confused now. holy shit. can you imagine? no steroids for 31 years now, so I can honestly say there is no cheating with nature involved. is it because of internet? all this information? look at any gym. there seems to be more gurus than students these day. everybody seems to know. only I am still in the dark.
    thanks for reading and may we all continue what we all love to do. lifting weights one way or another.

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