Do you feel you are physically literate and able to move with confidence and competence in your training? On the show this week, I have Lance Goyke and the legendary Rufus Blackbone joining me to discuss the physical literacy crisis we are currently facing. Rufus is a great friend and early mentor of mine who has been working in the athletic coaching profession for 40+ years, so I wanted him to join Lance and I to dive into why humans as a whole are moving worse now than ever before.
The intended topic for our discussion today was to unpack where we see Olympic lifts fitting into athletic development; however, a huge chunk of the episode is surrounding physical literacy and illiteracy. We can all agree that the main goal for any coach is to find the best tools for the job to build resilient, strong, and powerful athletes. There’s always the argument of whether or not kids are ready for the training that’s exposed to them, and in most cases, basic foundation just isn’t there. So, dive in with us as Rufus shares his ideal progression and layout for young athletes.
In this episode, Rufus, Lance and I discuss all things baseline movement competency, risks you face when loading up bad movement patters, general physical preparation, the process problem, mind development in young athletes, and so much more. Be sure to listen in to discover what the physical literacy crisis is and how we can fix it.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [06:59] Development of an athlete over time
- [08:12] Ideal progression layouts for young athletes
- [17:42] Issues with squatting in high level athletes
- [20:13] General physical preparation (GPP)
- [24:05] Mind development in young athletes
- [37:05] The importance of training exposure
- [45:32] Understanding what’s in your training toolbox
- [53:02] The process problem
- [56:05] Developing physical literacy later on in life
- [58:47] Movement differences in wide range of exposure versus narrow range of exposure at a young age
- [59:58] Using lower conditioning days for GPP circuits
James Cerbie: And we’re off and running. We are live with the one and only Lance Goyke and then Rufus, the great legendary Rufus, who, if you’ve met him, you know of him. If you haven’t, shame on you.
Lance Goyke: You’ve probably heard of him.
James Cerbie: Yeah, you’ve probably heard of him as the mythical unicorn that everybody knows exists, but they have never really gotten eyes on him before. But thanks to both of you for coming on today, Rufus. I think the primary reason that we wanted to record this podcast is because we wanted to bring a different perspective, a different conversation and more thinking about this athletic development realm, the place for Olympic lifts, because I’m pretty comfortable and confident in saying that you have at least a thousand X more experience and time with the Olympic lifts than Lance and I combined.
So, I just want to be able to open the conversation here, a different perspective on where they can fit in this realm, because obviously we recorded a podcast a few weeks back talking about where we see Olympic lifts fitting. And we essentially came to the conclusion and said, hey, look, if you compete in CrossFit, you obviously need to do them because you are more or less competing in the Olympics of Olympic lifting and gymnastics for really high reps.
And then if you compete in Olympic weightlifting, it’s obviously required because that is your sport. But then there’s this large gray area of people that just want to be strong. They want to put on muscle, they want to be more powerful. They play football or they play basketball or the sight of the other, figuring out the best tools for the job to build these very resilient, strong, powerful athletes. But before we go anywhere else, I think it’s probably best for Rufus if you can give the quick elevator pitch, just kind of who you are, what you do, all that fun jazz, everybody listening can get up to speed and get to know you a little bit.
An Intro to Rufus Blackbone
Rufus Blackbone: OK, well, first of all, I’m in the beautiful Mecca of Greenwood, Indiana, in the heart of downtown Greenwood. By the way, I live in a suburb of Indianapolis. So basically I’ve been in this profession for, I don’t know, 40 plus years and started out like everybody and didn’t know anything and just kind of had to feel my way around and get involved in Olympic weightlifting. Kind of by accident, actually, I started out coaching football and, you know, our team was really bad.
We were slow and we were small and we were very athletic, but we were smart. And as a small Catholic high school and so, I was just always looking for a better way to build our athletes and make them better, and at that time you didn’t have all that plethora of information that you are lucky to have now. You know, we didn’t have the Internet, stuff like that. And so, you know, you guys are 30 years ahead of me when I first started this, because all the experiences that you’ve had, what’s wrong with that is great.
But they would like that back then. And so it was you know, I found out that, hey, here’s another tool in the toolbox to build my better athletes. I knew I’d get better athletically, but nobody ever talked about it. So I just thought of the Olympic loss as a tool in the toolbox, whether more on a kettlebell or one the other exercise reimplement, you can use just a tool.
James Cerbie: Absolutely. And like I think when used and coached correctly, I think we would all agree that it can be an incredibly powerful tool. And so I think a really good place to start the conversation would be. And I know that you’ve thought about this a lot, if we think about the development of an athlete over time. Right. Like actually getting kids started at an early age. If we look back at that old Russian literature and we’re looking at this physical literacy that takes place over the development of being seven years old, eight years old, 10, 15, 18, 20, five, I quit that progression.
Looks like and I think part of the issue here potentially is just like we’re getting kids that aren’t doing anything and then they jump into high school and they have such. Large amounts of underlying issues like just baseline movement confidence is so bad. That it’s hard to bring those at the table right away and be effective at all because it’s like, well, you can’t whinge, you can’t squat. If you stand on one leg, you fall over. It’s just like the things that we see from a presentation standpoint all the time.
If we were going to kind of zoom ourselves out, though, and think of a more perfect world, if we could design this perfect world exactly how Rufus would want it to be, what would those earlier years look like in terms like when can we get kids started? When can we start drilling mechanics and technique and things along those lines? Like what would be the ideal progression and layout for you if you kind of just had a blank slate to work with?
Ideal Progression and Layout for Young Athletes
Rufus Blackbone: The first organized thing I would do is I put them in gymnastics. I think gymnastics, I read somewhere, I think it was. From Canada or something is that the NSA is like the basic level basis of all human movement. Right. And a kid injured a shoulder trying to do a shoulder roll the other day. And wow, on the ground, you know, I mean, he wasn’t hurt bad, he just probably was not very hot.
No, but. You know, the fact that he can’t do it. Tell me a lot, like you said, you can’t stand on one leg, and I’m shocked that probably 80 or 90 percent of my kids don’t know how to jump rope. And these kids are middle schoolers. So the first thing I do, I put them in gymnastics and the problem is that the boys want to drop out now, girls will stay in it.
The boys want to drop out. And so they’ve come up, at least around here, they call these things called ninja classes and it’s tumbling obstacle courses and stuff like that, which is perfect. Leemon that for as long as they’ll stay in that damn thing. And the other thing is that they don’t go out and just play. You drive around neighborhoods in Indiana, basketball is king. Football is kind of taking over now, but basketball was king and.
Now I’m old and back, and, you know, when I was a kid, every. Driveway had a basketball goal, every farm had a basketball and are put up against the barn, right. You see kids playing all the time, every park at a basketball court and you see them out playing all the time, you go around the parks now, they still got the basketball courts, the driveway still got the basketball rolls, but nobody is out playing.
They don’t go out and play because they got practice, you know, and so they never develop. One of the things I think they never develop the sense of creativity that you see in some guys that you grew up playing on the playground. When my kids play tag, we play a ton of tag in the gym, put in a small area. OK, now let’s see what happens and literally make one move. And if they make another move, they’re screwed.
They don’t know what to do. And literally, I’ve seen them stop and look at. Will you stop for a moment? Well, what else am I supposed to do? I tell my kids all the time, don’t ever become crooks because the cops are going to run you down, you know, so thievery and burglary and those kinds of things are out of the question for you. Too easy to get caught. I like that. And so, you know, kind of look at me and I’m half crazy, but they don’t go out.
They don’t have those kinds of movement experiences that you need. And they don’t have body awareness. It comes from gymnastics and they’re not very strong. They can’t do push ups. And yet they get mad at me because I won’t let them or the parents get mad at me because I don’t let them. I don’t load them up with what? Well, it’s a weightlifting class, yeah, but I’m not loading up a bad movement pattern and screw the thing up even worse, and then you have to explain to them what you explain to them.
They kind of get it. But so we have to go through this whole process. I know I pronounce his last name wrong all the time. Rob Paronella or they say that Lance or James, you guys know
Lance Goyke: Panorella I think?
Rufus Blackbone: He wrote a great article several years ago, and I forget the exact title, the article, but it’s something to do with our kids getting ready for the training. That they’re exposed to when they first come and his argument is no, because they don’t have the basic foundation to do all this stuff.
So, I have to go back and redo things that they should learn. In their third and fourth grade. Skipping my time to see kid’s skip, if you deal with kids and it’s on our opposite arm, opposite leg, same arm when they skip, right? And so. They do all these things and, you know, once you tell them, you help them out a little bit, they fix it. But just basic little things like that, they should have learned long before I got to them.
They don’t have a sense of rhythm. OK, now I want you to squat to a four count, one, two, three, four. And invariably, I got to stop them and say, how come you’re all the way at the bottom at two? I’m counting. Right. One, two, three, four. Now, you should be at the bottom. They don’t have that. I don’t I don’t know what it’s called rhythm or coordination or whatever it is to do those things and all they concentrate on all these 90 mile an hour pitchers.
Well, yeah, it’s who cares, who cares? The 13th throws 90 miles an hour.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I think we’re starting so far behind the starting line. Yeah. You have to catch up for so long. Atlanta, I’d love for you to chime in here because I know that. This is something that came through when you read I’ve asked a lot, these conversations are constantly being had just let a lot get you kind of chime in on this whole concept of like. It’s weird, too, because it’s like you see it now where it trickles all the way up, because we work with people that are obviously more like twenty five, thirty five, like you see the trickle effect all the way up.
But people that just never had any foundations and they’re like, OK, I don’t have any foundations in place. So I’m going to start doing high skilled movements and gymnastics and Olympic lifts. And I’m like, you’re no offense, kind of a movement retard, but you need to, like, really backtrack you here. Right. But we’d love to hear your thoughts here as well.
Lance Goyke: Yeah, there is. I mean, there’s a lot I think back to working with a variety of software engineers and design people who sit at desks all day and kind of always have because they’ve always been good at that. They’ve always been good at sitting around and working on the computer. And then they find it fun because they know how to use a computer to play games or whatever. So instead of going out and playing and learning that physical literacy that Rufus is describing, people can get by with gymnastics, for example, they just never pick it up.
And once you’re twenty, twenty-five, thirty. Where are you going to get it? You’re never going to pick something up as quickly as somebody else. And to Rufus’s point, a lot of these people, they just don’t have that framework in their head for problem solving when a movement isn’t quite right. How can I adjust? Right. So when they skip the same arm, same leg at the same time, they don’t even know what’s wrong.
And most of them will keep going because eventually they do find the rhythm as long as they have the physical abilities to actually, like, jump on one leg and they’ll eventually find the rhythm, but they won’t say sometimes they’ll say maybe this doesn’t feel right, but a lot of them will just keep going. I don’t want to make a blanket statement, but I have another guy. He was a high level hurdler and very, very fast twitch, very fast twitch prone.
Like you could tell he was good at lifting when I was working with him and he started running for long distances. And it was interesting because parts of it look kind of disjointed, but he was very good at it. And for him, for that type of person, they like to think through the movements. And so he was kind of like trying to consciously control everything. And I think that’s why some things looked weird. But overall, he was in a better spot and he was making it work.
Issues with Squatting in High-Level Athletes
So, I didn’t try to push that too much. I’m reminded of a conversation. I don’t know if I’ve said this on the rebel performance radio podcast yet, but I was talking with an NFL strength coach and he said essentially the same thing. Even people at those high-level of athletics, they don’t know how to squat. Only the old guys do. And it just continues to get worse and worse and worse. And so your strength programs are going to get worse and worse because either you’re going to load them and they’re going to get hurt more often or you’re not going to load them and you’re going to lose your job.
It’s probably a better situation for that person to load and then pretend like the injury likelihood is not even increasing because of what you’re doing, you know, and that’s just a terrible place for us all to be in.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I think that’s really well said. It’s just such a lose-lose for the strength to go to that position, because if you’re a high school or college strength coach and you’re getting these kids, you know, probably shouldn’t be loaded. But like you said, it’s like, well, if I don’t load them, I’m going to get fired. But if I load them with terrible patterns, then they’re probably going to get injured. And we just end up, I think, in this survival of the fittest kind of Hunger Games type atmosphere where it’s like, well, everyone’s going to get loaded.
And the few of you who happen to just be genetically gifted enough to manage this appropriately and not get hurt, you’re going to come out of this, OK, but the rest of you are just going to get thrown into the fire and you’re pretty much just going to drop out. And it’s kind of fun because. Yeah, and it’s interesting here to kind of pile on this conversation. My mom has been a P.E. School teacher for well over thirty years, and it’s funny talking to her about this because like she’s noticed, like such significant drops and differences over time, like every five years, decade by decade, when she first started what the kids could do versus the kids that she has now, who she’s like, they can’t even hold themselves.
Like they can’t hold their body weight. Like let my kid, like push ups are out the window, like just getting them to hold themselves in the top position of a push up. Yeah. She’s like and just like basic things, like it’s just gone. Like they can’t skip, they can’t roll, they can’t hold a push up position. And it’s. Yeah, I’m not sure exactly. How to go about fixing this problem
Lance Goyke: I’m reminded of coaching some kids in that position that you’re talking about and it’s like, no, pick your belly up, pick your belly up, pick your belly up.
I’m like, OK, maybe they just don’t know where their belly is. So I walk over and I pick them up and I have to deadlift the entire weight of the child to get to some semblance of a position. And then as soon as they exhale, they’ve lost it. It’s like it takes half a breath, you know.
General Physical Preparation (GPP)
Rufus Blackbone: You’re talking about the Russian model and the Russian system. It’s not that they start weightlifting at five years old, but they go through this very long period of GPP general physical preparation. And it’s track and field stuff, and it’s running and it’s playing different games and learning different skills. I know I’ve told this to Lance, I know if I ever told you this, but the national coach will say weightlifting was a guy named Dragomir Roselawn, and he told me one day.
So by the time I was 15, I knew how to play 15 or 20 sports. How many of our kids ever get exposed to so many different sports, they don’t matter of fact. I’ve got a book around here that was a Russian physical education textbook. And in it I can’t remember the leader’s name, whoever the president of the country was or whatever they call him, OK, he said something to the effect that our people have to be in shape for work and defence of the mother country.
And what they did was, they took that model back in a long time ago, 30s or something, and they took that model and applied it to the same thing, sport. And if you look at weightlifting, I don’t know about the other sports, but weightlifting, it took them about 12 years after World War Two to where they dominated the sport of weightlifting. So what about the time from developing athletes now? What nobody understands is the national rule that was in place at that time was that you couldn’t lift weights until you were 12 or 14 years old.
So, they spent time working on different things. You’re saying the boxer Lomachenko, you got to watch him. The guy’s unbelievable, right? And he grew up his dad was a boxing coach. Going to be a boxer, became pretty good when he was very young. His dad told him, he said, now you’re going to dance school and you’re going to learn traditional Russian dance. And kids and I go to his dad and say we’re not going to box anymore.
So, Ken, wants to rush and dance and free at 16 hours a week, something of a Rush dance that he would do. And just looking at timing in that rhythm and watching do stuff in the ring, I mean, he moves like nobody’s ever, ever seen it. You from the weirdest angles, that he gets into it just because he can move and do all those things. Well, what they did was they first built the athlete.
Then they made weightlifters and sprinters and whatever else it was for, the first thing they worked on was building an athlete. Yeah.
Mind Development in Young Athletes
Lance Goyke: It’s just so important there are so many things about being an athlete that people take for granted, like we can easily measure how much weight you’re lifting. That’s such a small piece of who is a successful athlete and what makes you a successful athlete. One topic I did want to bring up and maybe hear your thoughts. Ruf is all just mind development, like not only like your kid you talked about. He got it and he said it was very nice, which was surprising.
But you said he had a low pain tolerance, which is a good way to call someone a wuss without being too degrading.
Rufus Blackbone: I got lectured from court yesterday about this.
Lance Goyke: And that’s why he’s running your podcast.
Rufus Blackbone: Exactly.
Lance Goyke: So if you haven’t checked Rufus’s podcast, you definitely should see this with Rufus.
James Cerbie: That’s going to be put in the show notes.
Lance Goyke: Yes. But part of this is that this is still something that I like. I played outside a lot when I was growing up, regardless of all these asthma and allergies, and tried to stop me. But I played a lot and I had two brothers and I had friends and we all played football inside and we played tag outside and we were high. And I climb trees a lot. And even with all of that, I can pick up movements pretty well, but if I’m inactive for a little while, I still become awkward because it’s a pattern that needs to be practiced.
You need to remember how to do it and you need to remind yourself how to do it. The pain tolerance is all part of it. So if I don’t personally, anecdotally, if I don’t work out for a week, I’m probably OK. But my general problems are chronic pain related, so I’m much more likely to get set off from something like I’m going to whine about my feet hurting, my back’s going to be real tight, my hips are going to hurt.
But if I do an appropriate amount of volume, not too much volume and intensity and everything, but if I do an appropriate amount, then I can condition my mind and my body to be OK with those types of loads. And I can accept the pain that comes. And I can understand maybe I’m a little sick in the head, but I can understand that it’s good for me. So I want more. You know, I think about Rufous, the squat count one, two, three, four.
And I know exactly the scenario you’re painting. So you go one, two, they’re already down there. And then they’re like, how do I go lower? I’m already down here. And then they look at you like Coach, tell me what to do next because they haven’t played tag. They don’t know how to make the second move. For example, they don’t have a framework in their mind that says, this is my body and this is how it should be used.
Rufus Blackbone: Yeah, so tell me if I’m wrong, but I think there’s two questions in their pain tolerance and how do you get them down into the squads or.
Lance Goyke: Something like that? I was on the.
Rufus Blackbone: So I think the pain tolerance I think comes from. Playing, OK, you don’t be a sissy and cry in front of your buddies. Or I guess now it’s all right, but back when I grew up, that was forbidden, right? You stepped in a hole, you walked off the ankle sprain. Sometimes you can walk it off. If you get up, you get out. I found that a lot of times I get up right away.
I start to walk around. It’ll go away. And you’re good to go. Right, and now you guys can tell me more why that is. I don’t know, but. There’s not that pressure now too. Succah Paisner. I remember separating my shoulder the first time at a football game and I’m laying on the ground. And one of my teammates goes, get your ass up. No. OK, you’re too old, and I was so OK, so I got up right when I said lines, but I got up because I don’t want to look like a sissy.
In front of my teammates. So and then I learned you don’t want to let the other enemy know whether or not. Right. So we don’t do that anymore. They lay around on the ground and they get a little bump and they lay around on the ground with all the stuff. I think a lot of that comes from. From the environment that we’re in, I remember. There was a pretty quarterback that got carted off with a leg injury.
In a game on the. And the picture showed his mom riding on the golf cart with him, which at that time was absolutely taboo. Your mama comes down and you’ve got to be carried off with your mama in the car, you know, and even the newspapers got on him about Valerius. And that’s the first thing that goes through everybody’s mind. What it says is mama came out of the stands. I don’t have a mama, but no mama came out of the stands.
Dad came out of the stands. If you’re hurt badly enough, you know, he’d come out and he’d stand either along the fence or the sidelines or something to make sure you’re alright. Then he’d go tell Mama. But Mama did not come out of the stands to hold your hand. And so that’s kind of frowned upon now as being too macho, but the other thing is what the other thing is you have to let the kids find love.
So even though the first day they can’t go down to where you want them to go to the. That’s fine, because we’ll go down farther and farther. As we progress, so. They talk about Alabama’s process all the time, and it’s this process. Well, this is the same thing. It’s a process. I don’t care if you come in, you can’t squat. Just stick with me. I’ll get you to where you can squat. But it may not be today, may not be tomorrow, may not be next month.
That’s fine because of the ages that I did. Hopefully they stick with me. We’ll get them to that point. So I think, you know, you let them do what they can do. And then some of you guys have both seen this show go to a point and they don’t want to go any lower and you go go just a little bit lower. So from there, know how good a coach you are, can you see that they can go just a hair bit lower and that’s fine.
That’s a win for me anyway. That’s a win. So we get it down there. But everything is this process. The whole training cycle, if you will, is a process. Even if you’re not ever going to be a high level athlete, it doesn’t matter. You still go through these processes. And the gym class used to be when your mom started teaching, it used to be a process. We did this. We included all these different things.
And when you come to the training hall, now you may have to tweak some things, which is fine. You know, I can do that. But most kids are prepared, a lot of them, to climb rope, do pull ups, things like that. OK, but that was learned in the gym class because you worked on those kinds of things. And we don’t have gym classes like that anymore because we don’t want to offend anybody.
James Cerbie: A lot of PE departments are also losing so much funding, you know, some of that. So I think it’s not necessarily the funding, is it? Is the. Nobody feels that it’s important. What’s the first thing they cut? Because we got a. Be careful, I say this because there are always other programs that we want the kids to be learning at home, right. So we got to include those in school now. So we cut recess waste.
We have recess three times a day. You know, 50 or 20 this morning, something like forty five or an hour at lunch. 15 or 20 minutes in the afternoon. And we wouldn’t play if we played basketball, we came out, we were chasing each other; the girls are over here jumping rope. You know, I’m shocked with the amount of girls who can’t jump rope in the country. I thought every girl knew how to jump rope because in my day they all used to be able to jump rope because that’s what they did.
They’d take those big, long ropes and one on each arm and here they go. The same they’re little songs and they jump rope to the little song. So we miss that, you know, when I was coming up, if you want to get fast, first thing you do is go jump rope. So you want to jump rope right into, you know, how to do it or anything. So then you watch boxers and you see them jump rope, so you try to imitate the boxers that gave you some coordination, some rhythm and different things.
But they don’t do that anymore. Now it’s, oh, you got to go to this class and you need to get stronger. Everything is about strength now. Yeah, you got to be strong. But how strong you have to be is my question. I used to tell my weightlifting kids all the time and Sammy Sosa, Sammy Sosa came clean, injured, and he hit 70 home runs. They’re walking in right now, he’s got a talent, obviously, probably squats, maybe 100 pounds, 200 pounds.
Rufus Blackbone: Prysner See the entire weight room to be honest about.
James Cerbie: That’s the story, right, though, Mike Boettcher says he never touched a weight in his mission.
Rufus Blackbone: Yeah, and my good friend Corey Heck, he and I love your videos all the time together about change direction and stuff like that. One of the great guys will change direction. Is Barry Sanders the best? Barry Sanders? I’m guaranteeing he didn’t have Lee half the album. He learned it by going out and playing tag again. He has a natural ability, but he developed that ability by going out and playing tag when he was a kid and escaping.
Lance Goyke: Can you imagine how frustrating it would be to play tag with Harry Siena’s?
Rufus Blackbone: Well, there is a video of him. And he’s running a sweep to the right side. And the whole Dallas defense comes over, converges on him, right? He makes one move and six of them fall down at the same time we counted, recounted theirs. I think there’s nine or 10 guys wind up on the ground. And he winds up cutting back to his left. There was a guy about two yards in front of about five yards to his left, Barry Sanders runs towards a guy, runs around him, and the guy looks like a cartoon looking around like this, trying to figure out which way he went.
It’s all the same plot. It’s one of the funniest videos. We’ve seen that about a thousand times together. Watching it just it’s everything that we talked about, what Herschel Walker grew up doing. He chased the train behind his house every day. I ran and sprints trying to catch his train, trying to beat the turning. After it was faster than they were and they tried to catch her. And all of a sudden they become track stars and things like that or football players and stuff, now we can get into the genetics of it and all the other things.
But the point is that. I don’t think this is just Rufus’s opinion. So take it for what it’s worth. My job is to get you as close to you. Athletic potential as we can, so therefore you’ve got to do all these different things. That’s where the process comes in. If you don’t follow a process done, have the mine or yours or anybody else’s. But there’s a process that all should be roughly the same thing. How we get there is different.
And that’s where you as a coach, your creativity come in. OK, but this whole thing about developing the athlete, I heard angles to Obama that said something like this, I’m paraphrasing you gave a definition of an athlete. They’re as flexible. And coordinated as a gymnast there as fast as an Olympic hundred meters sprinter, there is strength. And powerful as an Olympic weightlifter. There’s a pretty good athlete, if you got that right. And then have the endurance of an elite marathon runner, that’s a pretty darn good athlete.
I got kids that can’t run across the street. You laugh. I’m serious. I’m being serious. They can’t walk or they can’t run across the street. Oh, man. But, yeah, we put them in an organized sport, put them on a travel team. Beat the crap out of them and they wonder, well, how come I’m not a better athlete? And so I don’t think I’m ready because of my weightlifting experience, I started thinking about how many athletes do we miss?
The Importance of Training Exposure
Because they may be a step too slow for this. Maybe an inch or two too short for this other sport. Things like that, that could be great at another sport. Now we go into the exposure part of it. Well, final exposure to football, baseball and basketball and Lance’s case hockey, soccer now, I guess so, only five sports to choose from. How many sports are there in the Olympics? I can’t remember now, but there are a lot more of them.
Right. The people could be very successful at. Because they don’t get the exposure which they used to get during gym class in some high schools, shooting a rifle was a sport. Try to get that passed now. You know, I don’t know, I may have been a great shooter, you know, if I had started when I was eight or 10 instead of 50 or 60, whatever it was. Right. Mm hmm. But we’ll never know.
And so that’s what the gym class was for. We used to do all kinds of dance and square dancing, and I hate those things. I couldn’t keep up. I couldn’t keep time with the music. Right. So I was a typical football player. Just run your head through the wall no matter how you do it, just run from the dadgum head through the wall. I don’t know if you remember, but Lance Will Thetas was the exact same way when I got it.
Oh yeah. He couldn’t feel anything good. One had been a pretty good weightlifter. And once we get into it, you can feel things. And now it took me forever and he’d have been a lot taller if he could have felt things so I wouldn’t have to beat on him all the time. I might have been six three instead of five, four, whatever it was.
Lance Goyke: Well, there’s one thing I wanted to ask kind of related to that is what you talked about, I think a current theme in what you’re saying is you’re in it for the long haul. It doesn’t really matter where you start. Let’s just work on it. Yeah. And you said if they stick with you, that’s fine. And Peters is a good example of somebody who stuck with you for a really long time. What types of people don’t stick with you?
Rufus Blackbone: The ones that want the results quickly.
Lance Goyke: Is it the child or is it the family, is it the coaches?
Rufus Blackbone: I think it’s a combination of both. We’ve sold. Getting strong so well that they don’t see that doing a push up can make you really strong or being able to climb a rope. To make you really strong. And, you know, just being able to do a bodyweight squat, Jean, I can do a lot of things, I can drop by if I make a cut like I’m supposed to or when I’m changing direction when I’m supposed to. If I can’t drop my hips, then, you know, I was watching a middle school football practice yesterday.
And you got nice looking big guys. Very few of them could drop their hips, so they come out off the line of scrimmage and come out like this. Well, if I’m smart, I know all I gotta do is get underneath them and I can control my waistbands. I don’t know what the other terminals need, vendors or vendors or whatever, but they’ve been there from ways to get lower. Well, that puts them at a disadvantage and they don’t see that.
All they see is the No. That’s why I could keep it on record boards, because the number is meaningless to me. Tell me, how much do you have to squat to be a great offensive lineman in the NFL? You can’t tell me. Because there are so many other things now, you’ve got to be strong, obviously, you can’t really be a great offensive lineman and my strength level, right? So you’ve got to be strong. But do I squat 800 pounds?
Lance Goyke: No. I don’t think the record boards are used a lot to motivate people, how do those kids like Peters who stick with you for years like you could do Olympic cycles, macro cycles with them now, how do you keep them coming back? Motivated to work on stuff?
Rufus Blackbone: They find something they can do. And they’re good at it, and that was a unique group, those three, and because I’d never gone through a process like I did with. And, you know, it’s a credit one that good moms and dads, all three of it, found something they. We’re good at. They like the atmosphere a little bit like each other very much, but it’s like they’re like, well, to a brother and sister, both of them Thirlmere brothers and sisters.
You know, I don’t necessarily like you, but by the same token, don’t jump on him because you’re not fight all three of us. Right. But if we are together, we don’t like each other. It’s a long and painful side. One individual put bacon on. So part of that was, was the atmosphere, the culture that we had there. I mean, a new kid had come in and they say more in the corner. Snickering.
And they tell the guys to be ready because they’re going to take all the weight off the bar and you have to do hundreds of these lifts with an empty barbell. They left because they were so used to the instant gratification. A video game. Or something like that. Where he spent five minutes and you can go, I don’t know how they work, but, you know, you get success, go to the next level or whatever it is, you know, if they don’t see immediate improvement.
We’re in that, you know, that’s why I always try to tell them, you know, that’s a whole lot better than yesterday. And things like that, so we’re getting better, we’re getting better and better now and we want enough meat so we can go all the time as much as everybody else does. But we want enough meat and they would see the difference because they would come to me and they would say, gosh, that guy’s got lousy technique and the guy would do more than the leaders.
For instance, the number Peters lost out to a guy. On the clean and jerk lost out to a guy for this technique that couldn’t even squat, he was so pissed that the guy didn’t go down squat. He was furious about what Peters says, don’t worry about the whole thing for me. Don’t worry about that. But
that’s the kind of drive that we instilled in them. And then the factory came down fast and you guys were seeing them and coaching them and helping them out and things like that.
That’s one reason I came up there was to give them a different place to go and not hear my voice all the time. Want somebody else to talk to. Plus, it was a lot nicer in the winter time than our temps go through it every week. But it’s really hard when the parents and everybody wants instant gratification. All they know about weight training is building strength. And they only equate that to a number, no numbers. If I’m stronger, I’ll throw the baseball harder.
No, not necessarily. Server, you know more about that than me.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I think that would probably potentially argue against that exact statement. Yeah, so that’s one of those attitudes in baseball which is getting fixed now. Baseball is coming around to understand, like just being able to. Yeah, yeah. That’s an entirely, much longer conversation. Right. But if you look at the people that throw really hard, I would bet everything I own that those are not the people that are going to go squat like they’re not going to be the strongest people in the weight room because what they have to be able to do from a positioning standpoint and like a rotary standpoint to throw a baseball really hard, I’m like, I don’t care how much weight you can deadlift or squat.
Like if I have pro baseball guys, like, we don’t even squat. Most of them have such weird levers and they don’t like pitchers that on the average move horrendously. Right. And it’s like we need enough strength and enough of these other things to keep you healthy, functioning, doing well. But it’s like. Yeah, the conversation is shifting, it’s changing, fortunately, right, obviously, guys looking at Cressy have really been like a huge push to changing how baseball strength conditioning works.
Rufus Blackbone: So strength training is important, but again, it’s another tool in the toolbox. Like you just said, pitchers got to be able to rotate. They can rotate or something, we’re limited on things like that, so we throw a four pound medicine ball game to rotate or help to rotate things like that. But people are only concerned with how hard to throw, not how he throws it. And with that group of weightlifters I had. We worked on it. I sold them and they bought into it, fortunately, on the fact that every lift has to be perfect.
Because the judging is subjective. The guy doesn’t like me for some reason. Then he could red Light you and you miss the lift because he didn’t like me, miss, you don’t like me. So you’ve got to make it perfect. That’s why we emphasize the perfection of the movement. Lock your eyeballs out. Don’t let there be any wiggle and I can’t ever remember missing a jerk if we got it over here. Yeah, it’s all these factors that people don’t look into.
It’s not just a strength aspect of it. And that’s why you guys do what you do and what you know is so important, because you can look at the movement and you may not know pitching, but you can say, oh, look, he doesn’t rotate right here right now. So that causes him to throw this way. That may be one of the reasons why his elbow hurts. Or is hyperextended when he’s going through the pitching motion or whatever, whatever the problem is.
That’s why guys like you are so important. And we didn’t have that when I was coming up. I didn’t know that until I started hanging out at defense and meeting Lance and meeting you and all the other cast of characters. That was there, so that’s why those things are also important, they’re tools and all of these tools combined to now we can get a more perfect athlete.
The Process Problem
James Cerbie: Yeah, it’s like a couple of thoughts here, it’s really a process problem, not a tool problem. Yeah, right. Like the tool works. We’re just not they’re just not ready to use the tool, right, because we have a significant process problem. And to circle back to one of those other examples, I know you mentioned chasing the train. I can remember watching a documentary and high school back when Florida was very good at national championships under Urban Meyer.
And I think if Florida is like they had better skilled players, everyone else, they were faster. Their change of direction was better. Like they just went on a run there and they did a really cool documentary on like a lot of the guys that ended up in Florida, grew up in the swamps of Florida. And growing up, what they did to make a little bit aside cash is they caught rabbits barefoot.
Rufus Blackbone: Oh, I’m just going to say. But yeah, yeah. I’m like, yeah.
James Cerbie: Then you give them cleats and put them on a field and it’s just like, oh, OK.
Rufus Blackbone: This is like what did I tell my kids all the time? So that county I can’t remember the name of right now, but the median incomes like twenty four thousand dollars, well they don’t have the money to come to one of you two guys. To get that done. So where do they go and chase rabbits? Right. So there are three reasons. Catch the rabbit. Think about this one. It’s fun, right, too. They can make some pocket change by skinning the rabbit and sell m’appelle.
And three, if they don’t catch a rabbit, they’re not going to eat that night. Now, who’s going to be the fastest guy? No, sir, Guyra Guiora got to eat, otherwise going to die. You know, and so I tell my kids all the time, I said, you want to get fast. You want to get a change of direction. Go chase the rabbit. Go catch you when I lived up north, was in the.
There was a field next to the training area. Also, you see four or five cars parked along there and come back here. These kids that I was trying to I told them that story and they’d seen the rabbit and they were out trying to catch the darn rabbit, all of it. That’s great.
And so I’m thinking I tell Tom, I said, you want to get faster, chase your dog. Perimeter fence and chasten see what you got.
James Cerbie: Actually did that growing up?
Rufus Blackbone: Yeah, I mean, play tag with him. I have a kid.
James Cerbie: I lost a lot.
Rufus Blackbone: I got a kid right now. We spent the whole summer doing that last year. And he played running back and led the team in the conference, I think, in rushing yards. And I saw him play this like a whole different kid. And most of what we did was we worked on smarter things, but most of what we did was chase the dog. Every time he’d go out with his phone and call the dog, the dog was jumping on him.
Tom, come on. Let’s go. Let’s go. And you see him out there and. This true story I actually had to tell him, don’t chase the dog, cut the dog off because he didn’t know in football, he can’t pursue angles, right. He didn’t know what a pursued angle was. Kids, a senior in high school, then order pursued anglers. You’ve got to be kidding.
Lance Goyke: Wow.
Rufus Blackbone: You know, I look back on the whole pursuit Anglo’s when nobody ever talks about it and you watch this game film and he’s on defence, he winds up chasing the guy in a circle around, instead started taking a pursuit angle at. You know, I told him, look, don’t ever depend on your hunting ability to put food on the table and they’re going to shoot behind the rabbit all the time. The bird all the time. I read that story and it’s on ESPN.
You got to look at the case. But that’s a great story. Good catch a bad guy. I mean, chase the rabbit. How many changes of direction do you have to make to try to catch that rabbit?
James Cerbie: Oh, you’re never not changing direction.
Rufus Blackbone: I can’t possibly do that. Many in a gym. Right. That’s why we play tag all the time, we have the square in the gym, two squares actually in there, about 19 by 19 feet. OK, Usain Bolt can’t get out of this area, trust me. But what’s the first thing they do, they try to hit the corner. They try to outrun you on the sideline 19 feet away from. You’re not going to get by there.
I could almost catch you. You know, they just look at me. But the sad part is they got no clue about using the whole area or they’ll start backing up and they’ll get trapped in the corner. And all the defensive guys gotta do is just follow them back into a corner. Stanzler reaches out and tags them.
James Cerbie: So I think an interesting question here, we’re almost an hour or so, we can make this the last thing and we’ll kind of start to wrap this sucker up, because I think, like, we originally started thinking about Olympic lifting. Right. But this is where the conversation I was really kind of hoping it was going to go because it’s the Olympic lifting itself, the tools, not the problem. Persay, the problem is the fact that we are not, it’s a process problem.
We don’t have physical literacy like you’re taking kids or even adults like that to go into the gym. No offense across it, like there are some very good crossword coaches out there. So I don’t want to piss all of you guys off. But on the average, what you see there is not the best rate. But you’re taking adults who have not had a good process, who are not physically literate. And then it’s like, here, just go Olympic lift.
And like, you just you don’t haven’t done the requisite work to earn the right to be able to do these things. Right. And even if you had the baseline movement, like you’re jumping right to like one thirty five loaded barbells, you’re not playing with a dowel, an empty bar to actually drill the technique appropriately. And so I think one of the key questions here, and this could be an entirely other podcast on its own, but it’s kind of Atlantor kind of direct to see.
I think this is a lot of what you do in your world, which is like we know that we have this process problem. We have physical literacy issues. People are not moving well. They don’t have good movement options like these. Just baseline pillars are not present. And we’re seeing it all the way up to people being twenty five, thirty, thirty five plus years old. How hard is it then to reclaim. These core elements for people to begin opening up more movement options for them so we can do more things.
Lance Goyke: That’s a really good question. I would phrase it as the hopeful question, I suppose from my perspective, there’s a lot you can do to be better. My particular type of training is usually taking people from physical therapy and back into the gym. Right. And so these people who have maybe been relegated to pain for the rest of their lives find out that that’s not necessarily true. Those people can’t train like the James Cerbie’s of the world. They’re not going to deadlift for fifty four reps, you know, and I think part of that is because their body might not be built for that.
Part of that might be they don’t have the physical literacy built for that. I think it becomes like once you’ve missed that window, because if it closes, if you don’t play as a kid, you’re not going to magically be really athletic later on. You might look athletic in small subsets of athletics, but you’re not going to be generally athletic. You’re not going to be the marathon runner who has Olympic weightlifting numbers, who has 100 meter sprint time on par with you, sambal. Right. Not that anyone does, I suppose, but.
James Cerbie: Yeah, but an extreme example.
Lance Goyke: But you’re not you’re not going to be just you got.
James Cerbie: To think of it as bars, right? You’re not going to be generally good across the board.
Developing Physical Literacy Later on in Life
Lance Goyke: Right. Right, right. You’re going to just sit and you’re going to do what you’re good at. Right. And that you know. Anthropomorphize, that is genetics, that is true to some extent, all the time, but it’s more so after you’ve missed this window of physical literacy. Now you can develop physical literacy later on as you learn how to do movements again. And I would never say that you shouldn’t work out just because you miss that window.
Right. But at that point, I think about it on a slider and like, you’re doing less to advance more and you’re doing more to not regress. And so, you know, somebody who has no physical literacy can learn the Olympic lifts. It’s going to take you way longer than it took Pieter’s to learn it, for example, because you never played sports and you’re not that young. You know, you can do them appreciably. You’re not going to be super competitive, probably.
But what is the purpose like? The weight isn’t the number or the number isn’t the purpose. You just compare yourself to what you did previously and then work on that. I think from a mobility perspective, people will have general limitations and those need to be addressed and those will regress. Bill said something to a buddy of mine, Ben Smith. Once he was like that, so he was doing some physical therapy stuff. And he said, So how much of this do I need to do until I’m good?
And it builds response because Ben really wanted to be super fit. Right. And so that was very motivating to him. And his response was, when are you strong enough to stop training? It’s like. There is the principle of reversibility, right? If I stop doing it, it’s just going to go away. So even if you’re not that good at stuff, it’s still worthwhile practicing. It doesn’t have to be Olympic lifting. It doesn’t have to be heavy squats, deadlifts, whatever it can be.
Unilateral stuff. You can throw Meatballs, you can play volleyball at the bar down the street or whatever, like anything is worth doing. But once you get older and once you’ve missed that window, you’re going to be training to get specifically better at that, even if you’re working on your general athleticism. And it’s not going to carry over quite as well to other sports, I would say.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I would agree, I think there’s so much that we can get back, but it’s just like if you take a kid who, like Rufus has been talking about this all time, had tons of play, tons of exposure, and you get them when they’re in high school or like when we work with people or rebel. Right. Twenty five thirty five years old, like, there’s a very clear difference between the people that played tons of sports, just played and had fun and did tons of different things growing up like.
Movement Differences in Wide Range of Exposure and Narrow Range of Exposure at a Young Age
The movement is so much different versus the people that were very much like peg hold lived in a very narrow range of exposure and so I can improve that for you, but there’s no chance I’m going to give you what I like. Johnny over here has even improved pretty much anything. It’s just the range to which we can improve it. It’s a really interesting conversation, like one that I would. And it’s something people need to be having more of, unfortunately, it seems like things are going in the opposite direction.
We’re not it’s not getting better, like the whole specialty specification thing early on in early childhood. It’s just getting worse and worse.
Rufus Blackbone: We specialize too early in the Russian system. It is specialized. So they are 16, 17 years old. Yet they still need to look at the old Russian manuals. Even when they specialized in their masters of sport, 20 percent of their training will still be GPP stuff. It was the other thing, so it was important enough that we still did it at some point during the year. And if your season is over, it’s probably the best time to do it.
You go through a period of cheap stuff, trying to relearn some of those things that got you there. Not necessarily specifics, but it’s everything.
Using Lower Conditioning Days for GPP Circuits
James Cerbie: Yeah, we’ve as I said, we’ve talked before here, Lance, rather, we’ve talked about different weekly training, split options based on your goals, et cetera. And for people listening, like, I think a really good place to continue to cook in that style of work. Like we think of that three three split that we’ve talked about. We have three days of easy air conditioning days when hard conditioning days, those two lower conditioning days are great places for just generalized GPP circuits and play.
So, you can continue to get those exposures a lot, because I can tell you from my end of one anecdotal experience, when I get lazy with doing those things and like my exposure narrows, I end up just feeling like a refrigerator. I just feel like a block who can’t move. Things aren’t as easy. It’s not as fluid. Things are stiff. They hurt. But like when I’m good with my GPP work, getting the exposure to these different elements, like you mentioned with Bill, when are you ever strong enough?
Right. But I get lazy and take those things out of training. Like it only takes me about one or two weeks to be like, oh, OK, I need to touch this stuff again, because if I’m not touching it, then I’m causing a problem. But for people listening, they’re looking for places within training to keep that baked in. That’s where it makes the most sense. Like if you just have or classify it as an off day, if you want to just go to really easy circuits, just move through stuff, give yourself large exposures, just go play games like just go play, spitball, write like you’re going to have fun playing spitball.
You’re going to get a change of direction. You’re going to be moving around like playing as many games as you can. I think playing in games is a great option on those lower conditioning days as well, depending on the structure and how it’s set up.
Rufus Blackbone: So I know you got to get off this thing, but if you just add one thing up, the workout is not written in stone. And as a coach, you’ve got to be able to read your client or if you’ve got a group, you’ve got to be able to read the group. And, you know, I think one time I was that a girl came in and she goes and she looks at me and she goes, I just don’t think I have it today.
And I said, well, I thought I’d kick a soccer ball against the wall, if you’ve been practicing because we had a practice kicking soccer ball. No, athletic. And she did it. And as Lance said, she got in the flow and she won for like forty five minutes. She finally stops and she looks at me and she’s just pouring sweat, right? And she goes, Now, what should I do? That’s enough. And that was your workout?
Oh, I feel so much better. So that’s an example, a low level play thing like that became the workout because that’s what she needed for the day. You know, they may come in, Kristie. Another girl had just come in. And she was running track, she was flying club volleyball, and she was weightlifting with me. There were days she came in and she just sat down on my desk and asked a question. We would talk for an hour.
That’s what she needed for that day. She needed me to be prouder, you know, and get after her weight lifting. Same thing with this other girl. Came back the next day. Great. She’s ready to work out and everything. And so you have to be able to read that or be able to tell that yourself, you know, you’re not training for the Olympics in two weeks, know it’s OK to take an active day off, but an active rest day where you just do that on your day may switch to something that you said that I thought was important. Sorry.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I agree. I think that’s going to be a really good place for us to wrap up here. And I’ll just piggyback that on one second here, because one of the things that I was right and all the programs that rebel anybody that I work with and coach like I tell them, you always hold the trump card. Just because it’s on the paper doesn’t mean that’s what we have to do today. It’s like you hold the trump card, right?
We’re playing a long term game, a very long term game. You only get in trouble when I try to take this game and make it really short. Then we started playing. So I think that is definitely a good one. Rufus, where can people go to find you if you would like to be found?
Rufus Blackbone: Yeah, I’m pretty easy to find. Mm hmm. I mean, you know, you want to call me or write me my emails. firstname.lastname@example.org. Cory, and I am at the irony, I have a podcast, Smoothies with Rufus, where we do some interviews and, you know, we call just coaches talking coaches. It kind of reminds me of when we were really fast. We’d be sitting around talking notes on everybody, running to the purple room.
Right. And then we’d run out of the gym and do what we talked about doing and go back and talk about it. And then we go back, back and forth and stuff. And that’s to me, that’s the best way to learn. So on our podcast, we can’t do that. We don’t have a script. We don’t send out questions and stuff like that. The speaker, we don’t ask him what he wants to talk about or anything like that.
You know, just hey, let’s just have a conversation and civil conversation go. So from that standpoint, maybe a little rough and things like that. But that’s how I learned it, because we don’t have the Internet cell phone as long as everything’s on Facebook. Grant Gardis on Facebook and Lance and Brent set me up on Instagram. I don’t know how to work the thing.
Lance Goyke: You’re probably not going to find anything. Brent posts their work.
Rufus Blackbone: That they forgot to tell me how to work it.
And I got all these pictures of pop up on and sometimes I can’t remember. I think it’s Grant Gardas or Rufus Blackbone or something.
Lance Goyke: You can probably use that. Actually, you could do some quick videos, I think, but you’d be really good at the instant. I don’t know how to do it.
Before you get tired of me asking questions all the time. I struggle with this thing for three days. I’m sitting there for the last hour. When’s it going to send me this link?
James Cerbie: I can’t wait to hear about that stuff.
Rufus Blackbone: So, you know, it’s like a God damn. But yeah, you know, if anybody wants call and talk and shoot the breeze, I’m more than happy to do that. You know.
Lance Goyke: He’s not kidding.
James Cerbie: Yeah, it’s a very honest, very honest statement. Well, Rufus, Lance, you guys, thank you so much for jumping on the day and chatting like I think you wish. I wish we could do this every week and wish we could just bring back the Saturday lunches or just like everyone gets coffee, we just sit around and you just record it for an hour to two hours.
Rufus Blackbone: Yeah, I just try to get Lance to do that. Right. And so I envision this big library of all these conversations we ever had. I could never get him to do it. So the library is lost.
James Cerbie: So a lot of editing like a library of the Library of Alexandria.
Rufus Blackbone: Oh my gosh, it would have been awesome. You know, we’d have this huge library that interns and people could go back and look at. And some of those conversations, you know, James, that they were outstanding.
James Cerbie: So that’s my favorite part of being there was just like off the cuff conversations.
Rufus Blackbone: Or the lunches and dinners and stuff. That was a special time to get better, but I couldn’t go through that.
James Cerbie: That’s very true. All right, everybody.
Rufus Blackbone: Thank you so much for having me on and really appreciate it.
James Cerbie: Pleasure. And I’m really glad that we got to reconnect here.
Rufus Blackbone: I enjoyed the heck out of that. It was fantastic.
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