More Than a Workout: Learning Curves and Having High Standards

Michael Hulcher

Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Coaching, Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, CrossFit


We have high standards at Gym Jones. I don’t just mean the strength and fitness standards that so many people associate us with. I mean it more generally. When we train someone here, we expect effort and intensity, of course, but we also expect them to meet us halfway. We will give you our time, our energy, and all of the training knowledge we’ve accumulated over the years. But it’s what the trainee brings to training that is, in many respects, the much more important contribution.


It’s the how, not the what, that ultimately makes training efficacious. I’ve argued many times that it’s the intent with which you train and not the perfection of the program that makes all the difference. What happens when smart programming meets proper intent? Transformation.



Approach every workout with proper intent.


It's More Than Just a Workout

When I train someone here, I don’t just put them through a workout. I don't count their reps. I explain the why and the how behind the training. I explain why this percentage and not some other percentage. I explain the physiological reasons behind a 2:00 interval with 60 seconds of rest.


This type of mutual involvement in the training, in the how and the why, is a powerful transformative tool. In building a real coach trainee relationship, we’re laying the foundational understanding that we’re in this together and it requires something more from you as a trainee than you may have thought otherwise.


There’s an expectation that things will be required of you aside from something as basic as showing up. You need to write down everything we do here in a training journal. Every rep. Every set. How granular should that training journal be?


The more specific and detailed you can be (how you slept that night, how your digestion was, how training felt, etc.) the better your training results will likely be. I am not your rep counter here. I am not your babysitter. I am your coach and you owe me your part in your own athletic development.




It’s really fascinating to see what happens after 6 months or a year in the gym with this sort of effort and mutual understanding between coaches and trainees. I often walk around the gym and marvel at what I see happening around me.


Instead of one coach and 12 or 15 athletes making their way through a training session, I have 6 or 8 or 10 other pairs of eyes that I can trust and count on to keep those who are new here on track—to make sure they’re approaching the workout or the session with the proper intent and with good technique.


The goal isn’t for me as a coach to have less work to do or less impact on the individual. The goal is to create a culture of high expectations of each other. No one here will let anyone off the hook or out of the work. We all watch each other’s backs, we encourage each other, we applaud each other’s successes, and we’re not afraid to point out and understand the why behind our failures.


I don’t want one leader here. I want a room full of leaders. I want it to come from everyone, and in order to achieve that I, as a coach, have to empower people. I have to give them responsibilities, I have to share my knowledge and my experience, and I have to encourage them to pass it along to new trainees.


The Learning Curve

In my mind, you haven’t really learned something until you can adequately explain it to someone else. It isn’t enough to just be a good athlete at Gym Jones. Adequate performance isn’t all that we’re after. You have to add something to our environment.


We are teachers and we want students here. Passivity isn’t something we practice or encourage here. Building a culture requires energy and dedication. The same things are needed to build anything of value, including fitness.


If you really want something significant from your own training, be prepared to put in the time and effort it takes to understand the mechanisms behind the thing you’re trying to achieve. I’d encourage you all to do more than simply select a program and work. Read articles, ask questions, train, experiment, and see what works best for you.


To get the most of this experience, you need to be an active participant in your own transformation. If you're not writing things down, if you're not asking questions, if you don't care about the why and the how behind what makes a program work for you and your goals—it's not happening. Be prepared to give everything.

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