Three years ago, Steelworks Strength Systems was born.
I opened the gym with a love of movement and teaching, a curiosity for the physical as well as spiritual, and charged myself with the duty of helping others improve their lives.
As any business owner will probably tell you, I have experienced life altering highs as well as soul-crushing lows. I’ve seen people at their strongest. I’ve seen people at their weakest. Every single interaction has affected me and transformed the way I see the world.
Reflection is a huge part of my life. Only with reflecting on our day’s events, only by weighing the quality of our actions can we evolve.
It should be no surprise that Steelworks Strength Systems reflects this ethos.
Every day I analyze my thoughts and actions.
“Was the programming purposeful? Did I offer the best instruction possible? Are we staying true to our core values?”
After a couple of conversations with coaches and clients, that last question has been examined more frequently.
What do I find appealing? What do I value? What do I stand for?
This post is a mini manifesto, a distillation of Steelworks Strength Systems’ core values: Simplicity, Accountability, and Openness. These are universal concepts of achievement. When applied to how we as coaches program and teach here at Steelworks, they push us to redefine the standard of excellence in strength and conditioning. When followed by the athlete, no matter the goal or ability level, success is sure to follow.
Part 1: Simplicity
While it is great that more and more people are moving more towards “functional fitness”, which encompasses weightlifting, gymnastics, cyclical aerobics (rowing, running, etc) are neglecting the basic skills and strength that make more complex movements possible. Naturally, there is a lot of flash to a heavy snatch compared to pushups, pullups, toes to bar. However, the skills inherent in quality pushups , pullups, toes to bar, etc reveal an athlete who is able to control their own body. How can we expect to control a massive, dynamic load without the necessary capacity to support our own bodies?
That is why I prize simplicity of basic bodyweight and gymnastics movements. At Steelworks Strength Systems, you will find an increasing array of static holds, focused body position work, and of course pushups, pullups, ring dips, handstand pushups, etc. You will also learn how to breathe properly? (Yes, there is a more effective way to breathe!)
While gymnastics movements are a necessary staple of athletic development, this does not mean that we sacrifice the barbell. At Steelworks Strength Systems, when the athlete is ready, we pull, push, press, and squat heavy barbells. The barbell is one of the greatest tools for increasing brute strength and power. Everyone who comes to us regardless of athletic experience learn how to safely deadlift, squat, clean, snatch, press, and jerk.
While everyone learns the basics of the barbell movements, some of our athletes have no need to clean, snatch, or jerk. When assessing a client’s needs, I keep simplicity in mind. I ask myself how will this movement benefit him or her? Does the risk outweigh the benefit? Some people don’t need to be snatching. Instead they should be deadlifting. Some people don’t need to be clean and jerking. Instead they need to squat and press something over their head. While they are less technically demanding, simple barbell movements are not easy. We prize the development of basic barbell mechanics before we progress clients to snatches, cleans, and jerks. The goals of the client, however, dictate the movement prescription.
In regards to conditioning, there is beauty (and sometimes absolute horror!) in workouts with simple elements. Hop back and forth between jumping rope and burpees and you discover a great way of building aerobic capacity, lactate threshold, and muscular endurance. Run a minute in ten separate intervals with a ten second break and you will learn how to develop “pace” and trick yourself into running for ten minutes! Power clean a heavy barbell off the floor over and over for eight minutes and build your body’s ability to recharge its battery for explosive movements.
Part 2: Accountability
As a coach, I live accountability. I am fully responsible for continually updating my coaching education and delivering the best training experience to clients. Every coach at Steelworks is encouraged to continually pursue further education to hone his or her craft. We seek to understand how our clients learn best and implement programs that will help them achieve their goals safer and quicker. As coaches, we listen to the feedback our clients give us on programming and the training atmosphere.
Equally important to finding success at Steelworks Strength Systems is the client’s adherence to being accountable to his or her results. While my coaches and I work hard to create a supportive and structured environment in which to train, the client must also take ownership of his or her results.
As strength and conditioning coaches, we are not miracle workers. If increased athletic performance or improved health and vitality is the goal, what behaviors are you transforming into habits? Are you making sure you get adequate sleep? Are you cooking all of your meals? Are you surrounding yourself with good people and energy? Are you tracking your workout results? Do you perform all movements with quality and full range of motion relative to your current ability? If you can accept that success stems from taking care of the perceived “little things,” your fitness journey will be that much more rewarding.
Part 3: Openness
I will be the first person to admit that the more I learn, the less I know. As a strength and conditioning coach there is so much to learn. The journey is never ending. The greatest enemy towards a deeper understanding of athletic achievement and, quite simply, life itself is dogma.
Doing things “this way” because it is how they “have always been done” is a less effective way to achieve anything. Dogma is safe. Traditions provide security. However, safety and security do not help us grow. The notions we hold dear to our hearts about how life should be lived sometimes prevent us from exploring, from pushing the boundaries, from growing.
Bruce Lee once said, “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own..” As a coach, I am open to new ways of training. When I happen to come across different but more effective ways of increasing a 1 RM snatch or decreasing a 1 mile run time, I explore why those means work better. After researching and testing these new approaches, and finding that they are indeed more effective at obtaining results, I infuse them into our training programs.
From the athlete’s perspective, openness is essential. At Steelworks Strength Systems we do things a bit differently compared to other gyms. For many athletes, being told to do less work runs counter to everything they know about strength and conditioning. Instead of intensity we value “focused intent.” In other words, be open to getting back to basics, performing simple movements incredibly well, and executing more complex lifts only after a sound foundation has been established.
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