UN-Learning: A key to consistent progress
It aint what you dont know that gets you in trouble, its what you know for sure that just aint so – Mark Twain
Somehow Mark Twain must have known about the fitness industry. Just about everyone seems to be an expert. Many are supremely confident that their knowledge of the subject is wide and deep. In reality most possess what the great actor John Hausman referred to as a skull full of mush.
Here are a couple examples from my days as a meet promoter:
Ill be breaking the state records in every lift today Lifter in his first competitive lifting meet. He barely managed to make his openers and was short of the records by 70-150 pounds. However, it was because the referees are crap. (He let me know throughout the meet).
The referees are complete idiots who dont have a clue what they are doing Another first-time lifter who went 0 for 3 in the bench press. Ohthe inexperienced refs had a combined 40 plus years of competition experience and roughly 30 years as referees.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect
People with low levels of competence in a given task will often drastically overestimate their own skill level. Conversely, people who are highly skilled will often underestimate their own skill level. This phenomenon is so common that it has been well established by many experiments in cognitive/behavioral science.
The implication for anyone who sincerely desires to improve their performance in any area (such as weightlifting or fitness) is that it is necessary to:
- Learn new things
- Unlearn some things that are incorrect.
Most of the time we ignore the second item. But, if we want to get out of our own way, un-learning can be just as important as learning.
Un-learning for positive gains
Building any skill goes through stages from beginner to novice to intermediate. Beyond those levels of performance are a small group with advanced level skills and a tiny number with elite level skills. IMHO most people training in gyms never get beyond the high novice or low intermediate level.
The reason for this is that at the beginning of their training they learn and practice a scattered group of exercises usually with poor technique. They never learn to correct their flaws and blindly adhere to a few assumptions about how to train. They make changes based on reading a random article or getting advice from another equally clueless person.
Their training program may have a core of sound actions but will also include some dumb ideas and poor execution.
There is another reason why many people work hard and never improve their performance.
Most of you have probably heard the pop psychology bromide that says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master. This is rubbish for several reasons but most important it ignores the most important element of practice. That is the quality of the work.
Endless practice using flawed technique and bad programming mean that regardless of the hours expended no one will ever improve their performance beyond a minimal level. In other words, endless hours of practice using a poor program will only perfect mistakes.
Building skill beyond a low intermediate level requires roughly the same amount of practice time as doing ineffective training. In short, it takes the same amount of time to become good as it does to stay mediocre.
Building skill requires following the guidance of someone who is a genuine master of the craft, not some well intentioned but modestly accomplished guide. The master can help you both learn and un-learn the things necessary for you to improve.
Thus, I offer you my golden rule for improving your skill at lifting or any other endeavor in your life that requires mastering anything that is both complex and difficult.
To move to the highest level of skill you can develop, seek training from a person who has accomplished what you want to achieve.
In other words, find someone to coach you who has demonstrated that they know what they are doing by their own achievements. Take guidance only from those who have actually achieved spectacular results, not from those who simply know how to do it.
Being trained by a master means you will have the opportunity to go as far as your talent and hard work will take you.
Examples from My Fitness Career
There are two men who have had a special influence on the part of my career involved in health and fitness. In my estimation both are true masters of their craft. I would recommend their coaching to anyone who wishes to improve to the limits of their ability.
In my powerlifting career I have had the great fortune to be trained by the legendary Andrew Bull Stewart. His eleven world championships are a record that will probably never be broken. He is a great athlete, but a better human being. His coaching led me to a long and enjoyable career in powerlifting. Due to his coaching I managed to build a career resume that got me inducted into the Washington State Powerlifting Hall of Fame. Bull and I were also business partners putting on powerlifting meets for over a decade. He has been a great friend for nearly 30 years.
When I decided to begin doing fitness business online, I found a business coach who also taught fitness. Scott Tousignant built a highly successful online fitness business. His business guidance to me has been based on his own highly successful approach. (Note: I have not done some of the things he advisedmy bad). His training programs produce spectacular results for regular people who want to look and feel great while living life to the fullest. This is all done with proper diet and exercise. I hesitate to call his program bodybuilding because that activity is so closely associated with banned drugs. His approach is completely without PEDs. Besides being a super business coach, he has been a friend and mentor for a dozen years.
I would recommend either of these masters of their craft to anyone who wants to blast through their current performance ceiling. Contact links for each of them are below.