Rocky's Approach to Fitness
When I first started going to the gym with my high school buddy, he helped me put together my workout. The problem was, if all you know is all you know, then you’re limited and you have limitations placed upon you. It’s what you don’t know that opens up doors.
I say this because for the first few years of being a personal trainer I was giving people exercise programs based only on what I knew. All that I knew at the time was bodybuilding, an isolated kind of approach which might be good for looking great in a bathing suit, but in terms of how your body actually functions and moves, it is actually quite detrimental. I later realized through educating myself, and having an awakening that I’ll talk about shortly, that I was hurting the people I was trying to help. I was not doing them any service. I was doing them a disservice based upon the programs I was creating for them.
What Sets us Apart
Over 20 years ago we were all into selectorized equipment – isolating machines – based on a body building mentality. It’s what a lot of health clubs are still filled with these days. There’s a lot of equipment still based on the isolating, aesthetically pleasing goal of body building. That’s what I did back when – the preacher curl, triceps extension, leg extension and leg curl. Now we have found, although that’s great for strengthening some aspects of the body, it’s just feeding into more dysfunction. Later on down the road, there’s going to be trouble.
We really always have to do one thing. Every time we give an exercise we have to ask why. Why are we doing this at our fitness center? If we have a valid reason for an exercise, great. If we keep asking why, my faith is that we will keep finding better and better ways of doing it, what we’re trying to seek of the goal and what we’re trying to attain. If we’re continually asking ourselves why we’ll constantly true our compass.
An intrinsic quality of people that innovate is an open mind. What sets us apart is that we know there is still a lot that we don’t know – both good and bad; what’s going to hurt us now and what’s going to benefit us. We’re on a constant road of discovery where many will just stick to the fundamentals they know such as “no pain, no gain.”
I intentionally bring in a variety of trainers and have clientele from young to old, recreational athletes to professional, overweight and out of shape to peak performance. It provides a great fitness petri dish for continually learning and evolving.
We stand on the shoulders of giants and we leapfrog from their experience on to something else. It’s just like any other science. One concept is gained, and then something goes tangentially off from there. More information is gained from that, and it can come back to the original idea and create a more advanced version of the theory. Then somebody takes that and goes off and does something and returns and adds to it.
So it’s this complete leapfrog effect that’s occurring in exercise science that’s building not only from experience but from different avenues. We have personal trainers working with the general population, but we also have personal trainers working with special populations. We’ve got strength coaches working with recreational and professional athletes. We’re all coming back into one room and sharing our experience – what’s worked and what hasn’t worked and why. That’s basically it – we’re pigging backing off some brilliant minds in the industry.
The growth in exercise science has exponentially expanded in terms of the knowledge base. We’re still in a very medieval period, though. We’re very young. The science is young. If we go back to Kellogg and Post, and the health sanitariums in the late 1800’s to now, we’re still only talking about 120 years. Compared to the refinement of the martial arts of the Eastern world of yoga, tai chi, and qigong – of any of these eastern philosophies of exercise or martial approaches, we’re very young. They have had thousands of years – 10 to 30 times the amount of time to grow and refine and learn. They’re to the point almost of perfection, where we’re in our infancy.
We’re in a medieval phase. What I think we’ll find out in 10 or 20 years down the road is that we’re pushing people way too hard, way too fast and expecting too much to change. It’s probably going to have a tremendously detrimental effect on the American population. Some fitness programs out there it’s all heavy, heavy, heavy – lift, lift, lift, and get it done any way you can. I’ve seen some horrific videos on YouTube with people trying to lift as much as possible in any way possible. Their spine is about ready to break in half.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Approaching personal training by understanding the concepts behind movement may make me different from new trainers and personal trainers that do not pursue knowledge over the course of time, but I'm not alone. There will be hundreds of people at the conference tomorrow and some will catch on sooner rather than later and some will have had the knowledge already. My approach to fitness may set me apart, especially being in a fairly small town such as Santa Cruz, but the things we've been doing the last few years are starting to show up in other studios. Maybe we're a little bit ahead of the Jones's, but really, time, experience, and knowledge is really what it comes down to.
Having said that, there are aspects of our fitness center that by design, keep us ahead of the curve. Working with the other trainers in the studio is part of it. Teaching other personal trainers is a big part of it because the teacher becomes the student. As I'm instructing new trainers that have been recently certified, or trainers coming from different fields about concepts, movements, anatomy of movement and biomechanics, that raises questions in my own head. I have to answer those questions or ask my authorities. "Here's something I have a dilemma about - can you solve this issue for me or help me understand it better?"
This is also the advantage of working with the physical therapists. Their traditional background is in depth into anatomy, biomechanics, and manipulating the body in finite points and movements. So I can also go to them and say, "ok here's what I'm coming up against, can you help me out? Can you make sense of this for me because I know this to be true but I just don't know why." Physical therapists really broaden my understanding of the concepts I'm trying to grasp.
Aside from the fitness conferences, YouTube has become a phenomenal point of interest in terms of education and increasing fitness knowledge, as long as you know which sources to go to There's a lot of crap out there, but the people that are the speakers at fitness conferences are leaders in the field and although they may make mistakes along the way and are the first to admit it, they also evolve with their knowledge base, understanding, training, and conditioning experience. I follow a lot of their videos online. Some have websites that are great for new information.
Fitness is like Technology
Where we are now is that the information gained in the fitness industry is like technology. We had big leaps over time with computers becoming PCs, Moore’s Law of doubling processing power every 18-24 months, and the internet. It seems like new devices are appearing all the time. So whether you’re in the technology field or the fitness world, if you’re not staying up to date almost minute by minute, you’re going to be a dinosaur in just a matter of days, months or definitely in a year.
However, as is also the case in technology, sometimes the more things change, the more they’re the same too. Often times things are repackaged into something “new” for commercial reasons, playing to peoples’ desire to have the latest and greatest. Sun Microsystems used the phrase “The Network is the Computer” in the early 80’s, and now 30 years later, it’s Cloud Computing and Smartphones and Tablets doing amazing things connected to the massive computing power distributed over the internet. Fundamentally, the concepts are the same. It’s the manifestation that has changed, enabled by advances in the technology and innovations in the execution.
What we discovered is that we were first going to conferences to find out the latest and greatest exercises, but over time what we learned is those exercises are already floating out there in our own head. The key is gaining the information to create the concepts behind the movements, behind the exercise. Once you understand the concepts, then the exercise is a moot point because you can create any sort of movement you want but you need a reason behind it.
So it was the concepts of movement we gained by going to these conferences, and sure, there’s still going to be year after year of the latest and greatest being peddled. Now it’s ropes and chains and heavy cylinders that we’re hoisting all over the place, but it doesn’t matter what tool you use, it’s the concept you apply to it. We could take a drumstick – as simple as that – and give you a full body routine just using a simple drumstick. And whether it’s a chicken drumstick or something you hit a percussion instrument with, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you have the concept down, that’s the important part.
We’re heading to another fitness conference tomorrow, and there are going to be talks on different ways to do group exercise and fitness training. There may be concepts of how you form the exercise groups and the ways in which you pair people up and the variations. That’s a concept, and that’s great, but in terms of the actual exercises, that’s not why we go to fitness conferences. It’s not out of arrogance, but more out of the experience, because we feel like we’ll be wasting time if someone is going to be showing us 1001 ways to use a dumbbell. I would rather see the concepts behind the movement and then we’ll show you 1001 ways to do it.