“Simplicity is the Key to Brilliance” – Bruce Lee
I have been writing this piece in my head for quite some time now. It began as a few observations in the world of strength and conditioning and has evolved into somewhat of a universal truth.
The secret to success is rarely complex. More often than not, it is merely admitting that you have not mastered something you would consider “basic.” As coaches and teachers, we often neglect this in favor of more advanced and appealing concepts simply because we are afraid to be seen as simplistic and unenlightened. In truth, truly great and sustaining structures are built entirely on solid and fundamental foundations.
I spend the vast majority of my time training golfers, athletes, and general fitness clients. A simple glance at a typical golf magazine is a perfect illustration of how badly we’ve lost our way. There are countless tips on how to get whatever the PGA Pro du jour’s amazing shoulder turn or selecting the perfect driver shaft frequency. I think I’d keep writing the exact same article over and over. It would be called something like, “This Is How a Golf Club Works.” Walk down a typical driving range anywhere in America and see how many players actually grasp this concept. Where the problem lies, unfortunately, is that this doesn’t sell magazines, and certainly doesn’t warrant charging $200 an hour to teach to someone expecting a dissertation on three-dimensional swing plane theory.
In the fitness realm, the water is even muddier. How many 30 lb overweight guys spend at least half their workout time hitting their arms from 27 different directions? How many of these guys can bodyweight squat without looking like a chubby melting gargoyle? The supplement industry thrives on this “advanced” mentality. Maybe you should be less concerned with your pre-workout nitric oxide booster and consider your daily sugar binge that would make Cookie Monster sit you down for an intervention!
The challenge for fitness and golf professionals is not necessarily to improve the breadth of our conceptual knowledge, but to improve the way in which we communicate the simple fundamentals and commit our students to mastering them before giving in to the temptation of moving on to show how smart we are. Just because you understand quantum physics doesn’t mean you need to apply it to teaching 1 + 1 = 2.
Most of our clients and students aren’t past the equivalent of elementary school. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve assessed someone who has been training for years yet fails at the very basics of human movement. The key is convincing your clients that by simply being able to do the basics correctly they are, in fact, advanced. The same goes for the golf world. If you can repeatedly demonstrate a good impact position, you are miles ahead of most that tee it up.
I don’t want you to think that this post is meant to downplay the importance of applying advanced concepts appropriately. What I do want to get across is that there are VERY few deserving of this level of coaching. And that’s fine. For most of us, basic math concepts are more than sufficient to guide us the rest of our lives. If you want to be a scientist or engineer you may need to go a little farther. But you’d never try to teach advanced calculus to someone before they mastered multiplication. So why coach that way?