• drsuzbaxter

Why training gen pop is 80% bodybuilding and 20% performance

Updated: Oct 22


Okay, a bit of a controversial post: today we're going to talk about why your general population clients (unless they're partaking in a sport or otherwise for an event), why they are closer akin to training a bodybuilding client and less towards a performance athlete.


I'm all for you wanting the needs of a client to be "high performance" and for them to be able to achieve more in their day. However, the baseline of what their ACTUAL activities of daily living are do not require that their entire program be based around their activities of daily living, unless they are really at the point where they are maybe senior as a beginner, and they have so many injuries that performance needs to become a higher factor for their activities of daily living.


Hear me out. Ask all of the people that come to train with you that are not athletes, and that are not entering an event what it is that they would like to achieve from the gym and you'll find out that about 80% will say that their goals are aesthetic. And the 20% that do not say that are probably afraid of saying it. So let's frame it a little bit differently. The majority of people (that are not competing towards something, they're not working towards a game or an event) if you ask them when they say they “want to get stronger, that they get stronger, and don't look strong or look strong and don't get stronger”, they're gonna pick the latter. They're gonna pick the one where they look strong because they actually do not care about the weight that's on the bar, you do.


That's not to say that in six months time that they're not going to be excited by the measurements along the way that show incrementally that they're getting stronger. And yes, it is hard past a certain point to make a client look stronger and stronger each time because they will hit a ceiling effect. But by that point, you have got a client for a long time, basically. What I propose is that we want to be ensuring that we're having only some performance lead measures for the long term assessment of their progress, and some that are indicators that they look stronger, like photos maybe.


If you make them look strong, as well as be strong, they feel different because they look different. And this might make me sound like I'm saying all clients are vain and that is not what it is at all. The thing is most people they aren't intrinsically motivated to do exercise. Yes, they know exercise is good for them, but they're not intrinsically motivated to do exercise. And so when they're doing exercise, they are doing it because they want to look different. They don't really have that many goals to lift a car up provided they can get through the activities of daily life. In these activities, the measure is a yes or no then and that's incredibly low baseline as well.


And what I mean when they say that the baseline is really low for the activities of daily living is if they reach down to the ground, and they make a groaning noise, and now they're able to reach down to the ground without the groaning noise. Well, do they really need to continue exercising if they've passed that test now? There needs to be something that incrementally changes by how long they've been exercising for, which at first is more readily how you look when you are new to exercise rather than the weight on the bar or the complexity of the move.


If they can get up without a groan, then they're pretty happy with how they are unless they start looking different, people are starting to say things, people are starting to notice. And people don't tend to start to notice that somebody has now added another 10 kilos to their deadlift. They start to notice that someone has got a better posture, they're more upright and these are things that come from training for aesthetic. That's not to say that you can't get some of this stuff from training in a way that will get you performance gains. But train for aesthetics, wins hands down, at least in the first six months for most clients.


So my recommendation for these clients would be to give them 80% of what they feel like they want to also help them feel like they can see visibly the difference that they're making beyond the numbers going up on the bar and then 20% of these performance measures that will help them with their activities of daily living. NOTE I say bodybuilding as in, building the body, read the balance in programming I recommend here before I get too much hate mail :)


One final one if you don't quite agree with me with the bodybuilding perspective and remember when I'm saying bodybuilding, I mean building your body to look strong. I don't mean eating chicken and broccoli all the time. I don't mean doing exercises that have no function all the time. I don't mean any of that stuff. What I'm saying is doing things that do a little bit of isolation and accessory work on the muscles to make them look stronger, and teach the client muscle and body awareness and isolation. Then of course, yes, you're going to need some compound lifts as well because that's what's going to trigger all of those really great cascades of progress throughout building muscle and that sort of thing. But on the whole you need to be doing this bodybuilding style training and not focusing on performance measures because you will bore your clients very quickly until they're on the same page as you until they get on the same page as you, which will be in six months time. Not now. You will very easily lose a client if you cannot show them what they're expecting to get from exercise. And if their goal is something different than what you're willing to provide for your client, give the client to someone else.


Do not drag them along the whole way and argue with them that they're gonna get even better results from what you're saying because they still won't be happy at the end of the day.

Word to the wise: I made a post on what Ive called a balanced program which discusses why the trend "functional exercises" should not make up the bulk of someones program, nor should Olympic or fancy lifting unless that's what they are training for, and they have a lot of time on their hands with very little at home commitments. Read it here.


Did this trigger you? Do you feel like I have made the wrong conclusion? Let me know what you think. I have had a lot of engagement in this post. And so I will be looking at bringing out some resources that's going to help people in creating programs that will have visible stronger looking results as well as being stronger results. So if that's something you're interested in, put your name on the waitlist and we will help you out



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