Should you be training with machines? Joining me on the show today is Ryan L’Ecuyer. I wanted to get Ryan on to discuss whether you should or shouldn’t utilize machines in your training and how to know the difference. It’s known that there was a phase where machines were extremely popular, and then they fell off because of the “functional training” movement. Well now they’re back, and Ryan and I break down whether you should be using them in your training and where exactly they fit in with your exercise selection.
We start the episode off by unpacking the reasoning behind the falling of machines. Whether it’s due to machines not being cost effective, a time efficiency issue, potentially a coaching preference, or maybe a combination of them all. We then steer the conversation to where we feel machines fit in your training and when to use them. If you are primarily chasing output-oriented goals (hypertrophy, strength and power), utilizing machines in your training makes the most sense. Machines, especially if you are chasing hypertrophy, are going to allow you to reach that level of maximal effort and receive a more optimal response than other non-machine exercises. Ryan and I then dive into the concept of of coordination and its importance in this movement realm. Listen in to hear us break down this u-shaped curve that came from the machine movement and how and when you should fit them into your training.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [7:26] Why machines got such a bad rap
- [14:30] The beginning of the “functional training” phase
- [16:40] Where machines make the most sense in your training
- [28:43] The coordination concept
- [31:47] The real bodybuilder realm
- [34:36] The importance of understanding your goals and what you want to accomplish
- [36:46] A common mistake in the movement realm
- [40:45] Breakdown of GPP training days
- [44:59] Bringing functional training and machine training together
James Cerbie: Alright, there we go. Ryan L’Ecuyer. What is going on, man?
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Not too much. Just had a little kombucha. I just visited Ashville over this weekend, so I’m officially a hipster and I drink kombucha. So actually I’ve been drinking kombucha. It’s like 2016 for anybody else before anybody else started doing it. The microbiome is feeling great right now and I’m ready to talk about lifting.
James Cerbie: Just Charmin it’s on this operating line. We have a computer company here in Salt Lake that makes a lemon ginger kombucha that is Dynamite in the summer when it’s really, really hot. Just a cold lemon ginger because it just takes lemonade. Super refreshing quench is a thirst. It is fantastic. Yeah.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: I feel like this is an upgrade from what we talked about me drinking last time I was on the podcast. So this is good.
James Cerbie: What was the last time? Was it a water conversation?
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Was this the warm water?
James Cerbie: Yes.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: its de created into other fluids shrinking your exactly. So we’re doing good. We’ve upgraded it’s also back to me.
James Cerbie: We’ve made leaps and bounds here.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah, definitely matured quite a bit.
James Cerbie: This is unrelated, but I’m reading a book right now. The rational optimist by the linking on the author’s name drives me insane. I don’t have the book in here, but highly recommend it. The reason I think of this is this progression of drinking water in my own urine to having Kombucha and he. The whole premise of the book is what happens when ideas have sex, the evolution of ideas over time because we are the only species that has ever done that no other species has managed to do that ever.
Right. Like they don’t have progression like we do in technology and science and thought they tend to stay very within confined lines. They don’t make these massive leaps and bounds. And his hypothesis and the argument is that most of it stems from trade because as you trade, you start to exchange ideas with other people and you start to specialize in certain things and you start having this concept. And I really like this idea of when ideas have sex because that’s what has actually led to this unbelievable, essentially rocket ship ride of human evolution, our capacity to take over the world, dominate other species and do so with technology and knowledge. It is a very interesting and kind of thought provoking read to anybody out there that’s looking for a book. Yeah.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Tell you to check that out.
James Cerbie: Okay. Unrelated to when ideas have sex, we are going to be talking today about training with machines. The rise of the machines or more apply to the resurgence of the machines because if you’ve been around the industry for a long time, you should know that training with machines has really followed a U shaped curve where in the early days people were training with machines and they are more popular. I’m thinking back to the glory days of Arnold Schwarzenegger pumping iron and then we went through this massive air quotes functional training phase where no one was allowed to go on a machine, because if you went on a machine, you’re never going to get muscle coordination and your core is going to get weak.
And if you try to do anything, you’re just going to fall over and implode. And now, thankfully, we are coming back up on this. You curve. And machines I feel like are making a really strong resurgence. And rightfully so, I wanted to chat today about machine training. Why do we think they sell off? Why were they demonized and appropriately, for a period of time there? And then where do they make the most sense in training? Because, like anything, it’s going to be a little bit Gray.
It’s never just straight, black and white. We want to try to have a blended approach that’s going to use the best of what’s available to us right now. But I just wanted to chat about machine training because I know it’s a popular topic. People have questions about it. Should I be using machines? When should I use machines, etc. Things along those lines. Right. Turn it over to you and talk about first this, the fall of the machines. Do we get like a sack, the fall of the machines, the birth of the machines, the fall of the machines, the rise of the machines.
That could be our own version of the Matrix. So I love to chat with you. And let’s first start with, why do you think machines got such a bad rap and really had this fall off for a short period of time?
Why Machines Got Such a Bad Rap
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Oh, man, that’s a great question. I have a lot of theories about this. I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently, and the first thing that comes to mind, which I don’t know, is the primary reason. But I think the first thing that I think of because any time I start thinking about changing my mind with things or just looking at things a little bit differently, I’m always going to turn to myself and be like, Well, in what way was I an asshole this time and what I think of?
And I don’t know that I’ll completely blame myself for this because I think that it was something that I kind of learned, whether it be directly or just a misinterpretation or from what I was learning from other coaches at a higher level. But I think it really is this idea as trainers and coaches that we want to feel needed. We’re in a help based industry, right? Like, we are doing this because we get this positive feedback and that people are coming to us. They feel better when they leave.
It’s just this giant ego trip, which is fine. Like, everything that we do as humans probably has some degree of that in it. If it’s going to be something that we’re successful in, like, there’s no true altruism in this world as human beings we’re gaining something for. So I don’t necessarily feel guilty about that. I don’t feel bad about that, but I think that’s the first place that my head goes because it’s a lot more complicated to teach someone how to deadlift off the floor than it is for them to do bad example. It’s a lot more difficult for me to teach someone how to squat with a barbell than it is for me to teach them how to press. I don’t really know what the equivalent on a machine is for a deadlift like a hinge machine. I was thinking possibly to help her getting a car.
James Cerbie: So what do we need a deadlift machine?
Ryan L’Ecuyer: There actually is. I think that there are a lot of hack squats, like the hinge kind of hack squats. Actually my gym has one called the perfect squat. It’s the imperfect slot. It’s the worst slot, but it’s the perfect hinge because it’s like the way that the toes are elevated on the platform is a way that your toes are elevated. Like everything about it just makes you want to push your hips back. So that to me is like the deadlift machine.
I used that for a lot of people that just cannot figure out how to do a hinge or just the first time they’re ever experiencing that. So that to me is. But I just didn’t think that people would know what that is and it just has the wrong name for a coach. You I have to layer in, especially if you’re going to do things correctly if someone comes to you as a client and they’re telling you that they want to see body composition changes.
Alright, well, I’m going to give them these big bang exercises that are going to have not only a local hypertrophy stimulus, but they’re also going to have this metabolic demand for it. They’re going to have a cardiovascular demand. So I’m going to do something like a multi joint exercise. So in order for me to get them to do this multi joint exercise, the King of all exercises, the squat. If I’m going to do things well, as a coach, I need to redress that. I need to go back a lot of steps.
I need to teach them a lot of things before I even get them to do the ultimate exercise. So I look really fucking smart when I do that, I’m telling them, hey, before you even stand up off the ground, I got to teach you how to control your pelvis in your ribcage. And I got to teach you how to build a breath in those positions. And I need you to feel certain muscles as you’re doing this. And then once we get past that and then we can go into this other progression that’s going to lead to that further progression.
And it makes me look really good. Like I have a plan and we’re carrying it out and it feels good to them. And then now they’re accomplishing things. I think that’s beneficial. I don’t think that that’s useless, but I think a lot of it does kind of drive our ego a little bit, and it makes us feel important, makes us feel like we’re doing a good job again. I do think it is useful for other things, but when it comes down to that person’s goal, at that moment, it’s like you could just put them on the damn light press.
This guy didn’t say anything about wanting to be able to squat. They just wanted to build their quads or get that effect from training. So that’s where my head goes in the first place. So I figure back to you like, what do you think? Where do you think this comes from?
James Cerbie: I think that is an interesting concept here. At least when you think about how this U shaped curve of machines is, it seems to have tied very tightly with the explosion of things like CrossFit and this more garage gym, like we have barbells, we have rigs, etc. I think a good bit of it has to do. Machines are just expensive.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah. Absolutely.
James Cerbie: I think you had this massive shift and what a gym looks like, right. Because traditionally it was a gold gym or some other big Globo gym where you walked in and you got machines wall to wall, floor to ceiling. But then we have this resurgence of a very different type of gym. Sorry, not for surgeons, a birth of a very different type of gym where you walk in and it’s mostly barbells and dumbbells and rigs and racks and maybe rings and things like that. You don’t see machines anywhere.
And I think part of the reason for that shift is not necessarily because that training model is better. It’s not a new flash, but because it makes it reasonable for someone to open a gym or for you to have a gym in your garage. Because I can tell you right now that if I wanted to buy one piece of prime equipment, it would cost more than almost my entire garage gym. Right. And so I think that’s another piece of this, also of why machines disappeared and fell off because they’re just fucking expensive, really expensive.
And then maybe as a way to rationalize the fact that I’m not going to spend money to have machines in my gym, I’m going to try to tell everybody that machine training is dumb. You need to do this functional training where we’re actually going to teach your body all this coordination stuff and like, whatever, whatever the whole spiel was for a long time. And we’ll come back to this. I do think that there’s an important distinction here, and it’s something we’ve talked about before in terms of programming, where what’s the goal with the outcome you’re chasing is a really key question.
The Beginning of the “Functional Training” Phase
And I do think the coordination fit is really important. Again, we’ll cycle back to that. We talk more about how to use them effectively. When do they make sense? When do they maybe not make the most sense type stuff, right? But that’s where my head goes, to be honest, just from a cost standpoint, they’re expensive. So a lot of people moved away from them for a long time. But now you’re starting to see Jim come up that is blending these two worlds when you walk into a gym.
And I have a turf strip, and I have deadlift platforms, and I have bars and specialty bars and dumbbells. But I also have machines and cable columns and all these different things floating around, too. Most things come back to money at some point in time.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah, that makes no sense to me. That’s a huge one. I wonder what came first. And I would guess that you’re probably right. I don’t know when this whole functional training thing started, probably like, late 90s, early two thousands. I don’t know.
James Cerbie: I’m not exactly sure that’s what I was going to go with.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: So I’m curious. Like, if people started to try to sell that before those gyms started popping up, who knows? It’s like one of those. It’s probably the least useless version of the chicken and the egg scenario. But this is what we’re going to talk about for an hour, but, yeah, it’s interesting, but I think that that’s like, you totally nailed it right there. It’s for a very practical reason. It’s just like, dude, no one can afford that shit if it’s super expensive, packs up a ton of space.
You’re kind of locked in. Once you do that as a gym owner, you get all this crap and it’s exponential, too, because it’s like if you’re going to have machines, you also need to have the roof. And that means you have to have a larger space. So it becomes a huge cost.
James Cerbie: Plus, there was this massive shift away from doing one on one personal training. We’re going to more group training, small group training, class based training. And with how expensive machines are, there’s no chance that you’re going to be able to run a cross set style model with a predominantly machine based gym. Because if I have 20 people in a class and I have one machine, how am I going to get all 20 people through this one machine and a time effective manager? I think that’s potentially another thing that we saw is a shift and model where machines make a lot of sense.
Right in that more one on one setting where I don’t have to worry about trying to get in, I have an hour long class. How am I going to have 20 people do this one machine more or less at the same time? Right. I think that’s potentially another component to it also.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah, for sure.
Where Machines Make the Most Sense in Your Training
James Cerbie: But if we want to transition and talk more about the actual usage of machines. I think that’s what’s going to be far more beneficial to people listening, then our hypothetical chicken and egg conversations. Right. And so I think I’ll start with this and I would love to get your input on it. I think the primary goal is going to be an output oriented goal. So I tend to classify exercises on a spectrum from the sensory motor on one side of the world where I really care about fine feel positioning.
I’m primarily trying to chase coordination and movement change. On the far end of the spectrum. I have output movement, and the entire goal of an output movement is pure physiologic output. I’m either chasing strength, I’m chasing hypertrophy, or I’m chasing power, one of those three. And if that is my goal, if I’m in a purely output mind-set, a machine makes, without question the most sense because I take away all the other extra complexity of even having to do something like a squat or a deadlift, which are amazing movements.
They fit really well into the output category. I’m not saying to not do those things. A safety bar squat, a straight bar deadlift. Those are still fantastic output movements. But if all I’m thinking is pure output, then that’s where machines make the most sense to me, because I can really just remove all the other crap and be like, okay, we are just chasing pure physiologic outcome here of getting stronger, putting on more muscle or getting more powerful. I can worry about the coordination bit with my other exercises, like my accessory exercises. We can do more of that sensory motor stuff, but if I really just want strength, I purchase power. Machines make a lot of sense, right? Why not just go in a hack squat?
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Absolutely. Yeah.
James Cerbie: That’s kind of how I think of them.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: It’s like if someone were to come to you with a cardiovascular goal, and the doctor told me, I need to start doing some cartography with exercise and you’re like, okay, cool. What? I got the perfect tool for you. You’re going to learn how to unicycle that’s kind of what we’re saying when we do. I watch that’s all that you’re doing. If you’re having someone snatch for body composition, it’s like, well, yeah, maybe. I mean, if they get really, really fucking good at that, maybe they’re going to get that local adaptation that you’re going for, whatever the case may be, but it’s like, I mean, I could just use a bike that they could sit on and they’ll get that Cardiovascular response. I don’t need to teach them how to unicycle.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Put them on the salt bike.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Exactly. Yes.
James Cerbie: Here’s what we do. We’re gonna go on this bike as long as you don’t fall off, just move your arms and legs. Here we go.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: I mean, I’ve seen people get hurt on Echo bikes, and one of them happens to be in this room with me right now. But aside from that, it’s pretty idiot proof. You’re probably not going to hurt yourself on an assault bike, on an Echo bike. Why wouldn’t you just do it? Yeah, look at this. The same thing. I mean, my bike is always more Hypercube and shrink stuff, and all that we’re trying to do from a hypertrophy perspective is we just need to elicit this mechanical transaction response.
Like, we just need to be able to get tension at the local tissue to kick off this cascade. How would your body know what implement you’re using to do that?
James Cerbie: It doesn’t care.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: It wouldn’t matter. Am I just giving it the sufficient stimulus for that response? You’re putting enough tension into the system that anything that gets in the way of that is going to be. I mean, we can go, like, all sorts of ridiculous examples. It’s like, are you going to like, are you going to try to work out in water or something less like, well, that’s going to get in the way, like, are you going to work out in a snowsuit that’s going to get in the way of the thing that you’re trying to do? Why would you not just go after that thing that’s going to make it the easiest way to just sit down and do your work.
James Cerbie: And from a high Percy standpoint more than any other?
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah, I think so. For sure.
James Cerbie: That’s her biggest boldest asterisk term of everything we’ve said so far from a hypertrophy standpoint, if your goal is to hypertrophy a muscle, machines make the most absolute number one most assuming that the machines are good because you actually assuming that the machines are good and that you understand how to set yourself up on the machine. Potentially, right? Because most machines aren’t really built by the smartest humans. No offense. Right. They kind of get you where you need to be, but there are going to be some small tweaks and changes that you need to make.
But let’s be honest, I just having dumbbells and barbells is not the optimal world Fry purchase, but you can make it work. I’m not saying that you can’t get Jack doing that, right. We definitely can. Look at gym Ness. Look at high level crossed athletes. They have good physique. They’re never going to step on a bodybuilding stage and win because they don’t have the math in size, et cetera. Right. But like, they’re for the average layman they are jacked. Okay, so you can clearly get jacked that way.
But machines still make so much sense because you just don’t have as much freedom and flexibility in terms of, like, your angles and your positioning of how to actually hit different muscles and different angles and different positions. Lengthen shorten this or the other when you don’t have the machines at your disposal. Right. Because, well, you can do pull ups and they can definitely help, but you’d probably be better off if you had a cable column where you could do some type of one arm lat pull downs, or you could do pull downs, or you actually have a chest supported row of some kind.
Just like these tools are going to help in an enormous way because it’s going to allow us to really isolate the muscle in question far better and truly make that muscle or limiting factor. Whereas these other more complex exercises, there are a lot of other things in the chain that can fail first. And I think that’s the key point here for sure.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: I can’t really think of, especially for lower body. I think you can make an argument for upper body. I think for lower body, it’s almost always going to be some other limiting factor, and it’s usually going to just be your trunk that’s going to limit you and what you can actually perform, and you might be able to get close enough as long as you’re at the local level of your a few reps shy of failure, like you’re probably going to get that stimulus, but there’s a cost to it.
If that’s what you’re doing. At some point, you’re probably either going to get just so I fatigue to the point that you can actually produce that force anymore. You’re going to injure yourself at some point, most likely, or it’s just not efficient, like it just ends up taking a lot more time and effort than it should. I think you could argue for like, for certain people, like, maybe a bench press is just as good as a chest press. Chine chest press. For some people, I think you could definitely make that argument for maybe a bicep curl is fine.
Whether it’s on a machine or a barbell probably doesn’t make that much of a difference, but for a lot of your lower body exercises, I mean, that’s why I see the machines having the most utility and probably like you just mentioned with the back exercises as well, because the doing things like bent over Rose, it all really just comes out of your truck in the first thing that fatigue. So I don’t think that you’re going to be able to get close enough to failure at the local level.
With a lot of those exercises to get the optimal response, you will definitely get a response, but it’s going to come at a cost, and it’s probably not to the highest level that it could be.
James Cerbie: Again, we’re not saying that Barbells and Dumbbells can’t get you, Jacked, because they can, right? We’re talking more if in a perfect world situation, what can we actually do here that is going to be optimal. I think the things you make are really important because I think if we think about these in big categories, we have lower body exercises. And I think the only lower body exercise that maybe doesn’t fit in the machines we mentioned earlier. Unless you have the perfect squat, which is really the perfect hinge, it’s really hard to get a good loaded hinge.
Right. That’s where I still think you need, for example, a trap bar RDL. Right. But if we’re thinking about other lower body exercises, the first thing that’s going to fail is not going to be your legs like a safety bar squatted today. And I can guarantee you that I did not fail because my legs were the primary limiter. It was my trunk and a whole bunch of other things that came in together. My legs definitely got worked, you know, but it’s not the same as a hack squat or a leg press or even the variation we did last time in Texas, which I really like where you walk your feet forward on a Smith machine.
That quad pump is unreal. You will never will never replicate that quad feel with a normal farm. No chance. Right. And then I think that upper pressing exercises, you can be fine without machines. Right. But I think when we start talking about upper poll, upper pole gets really, really, really difficult if you have access to no machines. Right. Because if you there’s not much I can do once I start getting above horizontal, right. Okay. Cool. Maybe I can Meadows row with a bar Bell. I can dumbbell row, I can bent over row, etc.
But if you don’t have any machines, if you don’t have a cable column, anything in that realm and we start getting you above horizontal, I’ve got no options for what I’m going to be able to do to get you actual incline, vertical upper pull variations. Right. I’m not going to use bands because they tend to be really dumb and the distribution of tension is ridiculous. It makes no sense, right? Just little things like that can make a humongous difference, because otherwise I’m trying to think, what are we gonna do?
You’re gonna have to do a bazillion pull ups? I don’t know. Even just having a cable column makes a humongous difference. And my ability to do tons of different upper pool variations.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah, for sure. I think you’re kind of left with a pull up. And then if you can’t do a pull up, then I guess you just don’t have a back, don’t have lots. And if you don’t have lots, you don’t have life.
James Cerbie: That’s a fair statement. That should be a T-shirt. If it’s not a T shirt to make that happen, I will say to one of our most popular Instagram posts that we’ve made in the past few months was one of the things you have written in the notes and the training team concerning confidence in what was the line.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Let me think about it. I read it. So let me know. I think it was something that I originally said the Lesner when he asked me if he could do more pull out than this program. And I think I said something like 100% of performance is confidence in 100% of confidence is having lapse. Yeah, more or less something like that. It’s true.
James Cerbie: It’s very true. So, so far, I think we hit two big things here. One, if we’re thinking just pure output string that probe power machines make a ton of sense with a giant bold asterisk next to hypertrophy, where they make extra extra sense. Okay. And then when we start thinking about hypertrophy in different body parts and different regions, different muscles for a lower body and your back so upper pulling, you’re gonna be so limited if you don’t have.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: My mom was calling him a pretty sure mom. Not now.
James Cerbie: That man.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: I gotta put this the main. Not now. Actually, I think it’s Ryan Whitehead. Does he know we were talking about machines? We were just texting about this. All right. How do I turn this thing on? Do not disturb. Oh, God.
James Cerbie: Just to airplane.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Sorry. I don’t know how to do that. Come on. I just got a new ipad and I don’t know how to use it. Airplane mode. Okay, cool. My phone is always on silent. I don’t ever use my phone. I’m sorry.
James Cerbie: I hope you let in the slow.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Dammit. So good.
The Coordination Concept
James Cerbie: But the .2 there is when we start thinking about specific muscle groups, it’s really hard from a lower body standpoint and a back upper pull variation. If you don’t have access to machines, it’s just not going to be optimal, especially in this realm of I purchase. Right. So maybe if I kind of best say this because I think that I do want to come back to this concept of coordination, because I do think that there is some merit there. I think that if you never get off a machine and then you go to do something athletic or I have you try to do a squat or a split squat or lunch or these other things, like when we take away those because what a machine is really doing is it’s giving you tons of reference centers?
A hack squat is a great example. I’m getting tons of reference centers. I do not have to figure out how to Orient myself in space because the machine is doing that for me. It’s literally locking me in so I can’t fuck it up. And I do think that there is a place and that you need to have some inputs. Granted, I say we need our people. Not everyone technically needs this per se, right? But for our people, if you want to be athletic, you need this. I do think that you then need places in training where we are working on more of this coordination sensory motor component so that you are teaching things to work together in space, because that’s part of I think being human and one is just being human to a huge part of being athletic is being able to Orient and do things in space when I take away all of the extra support and reference centers for you.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah. Agree. And this is kind of how I’m trying to reconcile my life right now, and I have to find a way to make myself still feel useful. And I really do. I really do think that there is a benefit to that. I think that I have definitely been guilty of going way too far in that direction previously, right where I’m just like, okay, we’re going to do all this stuff with just body weight or, like, moving your body in space and coordinating things, and it’s going to be very coaching intensive, and it just who is way too much of that.
The Real Bodybuilder Realm
But I think there still should be a degree of that in just about every program. So I think that there’s a lot of things that you will be missing in that regard. I mean, I’m curious what your thought on this is, like, any time you see, like a bodybuilder, like a real body builder, not me. I’m a fake body builder, like a real body builder. You know what I’m talking about? Like, if you see those guys try doing athletics, the vast majority of them are just atrocious.
And I know this could be just one of these correlation things and not necessarily a causation because of the training machine and all that. But they tend to do a lot of these things where they’re locked into a machine. They don’t really have to coordinate their body that much. It would make sense to me that they move the way they do now. That could just be morphological changes, and they’re just locked into that regardless of how they got there. Maybe they would still look that way because I think what you put on a certain amount of muscle mass, it does kind of change the skeleton at some point where it’s like you just don’t even have access to certain things.
But I don’t know, I kind of have this bias. I feel like it can just be a bias. That’s not even real. But it seems like it would make sense to me that if I’m giving them those opportunities to present that, that they’re going to be able to present that in life as well, that makes logical sense to me, at least. So I don’t know what your take is on that.
James Cerbie: I think a handful of thoughts here one and the real body builder realm, right. For starters, they don’t give a rat’s ass about yes, athletic things. They don’t care. The training has nothing to do with that, and they shouldn’t care. Okay. Because if you really want to be a good athlete and there’s no chance you’re going to step on stage to win, period. An asterisk that I will say. And this is one of the things I’ve always noticed, not always notice, but have noticed when I watch higher level bodybuilders train, which is that in certain scenarios, I do tend to move actually really well.
Like, I think the last time I noticed is when I was training with Lexer, we were doing an upper body day together. And it’s like having trained mostly athletes my entire life not spending a ton of time around people that just are training for bodybuilding. You get used to seeing certain things from a presentation standpoint. We’ve talked a lot about this general bilateral extension pattern, blah, blah, blah. But one of the things that I tend to notice is that their shoulder blades move like absolute dog crap.
And this is one of the things that I’ve actually come to see with some higher level bodybuilders. Either train with you training with Lexer or just watching YouTube videos or these guys training and you see them doing a back day or upper poles or lateral variation things along those lines. You get a camera shot of their back and you actually watch what’s going on with their shoulder blade. I’m like, no, they’re nothing like shoulder blades. That scapulohumeral rhythm is actually fantastic. And that’s one of those weird ones where I tried to think to myself like, maybe I need to be stealing more from that world for a lot of my athletes that are struggling to actually get this really good scapulohumeral or them getting these things moving?
Well, because I think baseball, because that was my very first training input way back in the day was primarily baseball players at Cresty performance as an intern. And we spent tons of time trying to work on getting scaps moving on ribs, getting this good scapulohumeral rhythm. Then you go out to, like, a high level bodybuilder, and it looks so good. They tend to get this really good movement. But again, it tends to be more in isolation.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Right.
James Cerbie: If we kind of take them out of that world and something different, it tends to fall apart. And that’s just a repetition thing, I think.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah, I think they’re doing that for they’re thinking about folding Lanting and fully shortening those muscles, especially since they’ve coordinated that pattern.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Yeah. But they come at it from a different angle. But that same idea, if I want to see the shoulder blade move really well and not just be pinned, the state is great.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Right.
James Cerbie: And so that’s one example where if we think this coordination around one movement, I’m not saying body bill just moves terribly. I just want to make sure that’s really clear here. But my second thought in this realm is that this way you got to be really clear. And what is the outcome that you’re chasing? What is your actual goal? What do you want to accomplish? Right. So I’ll give an example here of how my daily training template is designed with my own biases in mind with the things we’ve talked about here, right?
We are going to have a section devoted to power where we’re going to be doing jump sprints and throwing things in that realm at the beginning of the session. This is an opportunity to learn how to coordinate because you’re going to be free out in space. Coordinate, generate power. Then I’m going to go to an output block. And this is where I’m thinking pure output strength, hypertrophy, power, one of the three. It just depends on the training cycle. Right. From there, I’m going to go into a secondary output.
And again, I tend to think of things on this scale, from sensory motor on one extreme to output on the other extreme. So that secondary output exercise, for me, is going to start somewhere in the middle of that spectrum at the beginning of a training cycle, and then it’s going to move to the output side over the course of a training cycle. Right. So maybe it starts with heels, elevated search or squat. But then when we’re in phase three, I’m on a leg press and then my accessory exercise starts on the far side of my sensory to output spectrum.
Right. Maybe I’m starting with one arm, one leg RDL or a physio ball leg curl or a half kneeling landmine press thing in that realm. Right. Because those are not things that are really going to get you strong, Jackson powerful. They’re just not. But what they are doing is they’re teaching you to coordinate and move really well in space, and then those exercises will wave up over the course of a program. So one in the final phase, maybe that half feeling one arm way in mind press became a two arm dumbbell incline press or an exercise I’m really liking recently as an incline cable press.
Right. Or I’m putting you on a chest press type thing. So that’s how I tend to think about and try to categorize these things so that I’m waving all this in over every single training program. You’re getting inputs at every level throughout the program. Right. But one of the mistakes I think that people make and I’ve definitely made this. You mentioned it is when you first get into this movement realm of I want to help people move really well. We tend to go way too far in that extreme where we don’t get people training hard, and that’s where machines are your best friend.
Right. Pick an exercise that this person literally can’t mess up. It is hard to mess up a hack squat. It is hard to mess up an incline chest press on a machine. Right. So I think you can have both. You need to have sections in your training where we’re going to be focusing on output, and you need to pick dumb exercises for that make it easy for them to just focus on output and then give them things where we’re going to focus more on the movement bit and then all that waves over a program.
So you’re getting all those inputs together. Right. But again, we have to keep in mind that we’re training people that want a little bit of everything. We’re training the extreme generalist, right? They want to be strong. They want to be Jack. They won’t be powerful. They want to be athletic. They want to be well conditioned. This approach we’re talking about is not going to be really successful for the person that wants to compete, just in body building, for the person that wants to compete just in powerlifting. So let’s make sure we keep all that in the appropriate scope. But that’s how I think about and organize these things in my head. I don’t know if that makes sense to you or not.
The Importance of Understanding Your Goals and What You Want to Accomplish
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah, absolutely. You have to do that. Needs analysis first. It starts with their goals, and you can make that decision with them. Just decide, like, hey, when you say this, like when you say that you want to focus on because this happens a lot with guys that I get through rebel, too, because I know that they’re coming in and they still do want that other stuff. But they’ll just say, hey, I just want to put on muscle maps. I’m like, all right. Well, you mean that to the Nth degree?
Like, at what point? I cut this thing off because I have a feeling that you still want to be strong on the traditional list. You still want to be athletic enough that you can continue to do whatever sport you like to do recreationally. That’s a conversation that I have with that person just to make sure. Just so I understand where you are at.. If you’re talking, like, at all costs, then we’re gonna we’re going to focus almost exclusively on the dumb stuff. I still have a bias.
And maybe I’m just trying to make myself feel better about the effort and the education that I’ve taken myself through over the years. But I still think that there should be some degree of stuff where you’re moving yourself through space and you’re getting some rotation every now and then and you’re doing some unilateral work. I still think that’s beneficial, and I still think it can come at a very low cost. I think you can easily build that stuff into a cardio day that can be just like a GBP kind of cardio cyclical thing.
And I’ll use that as just an insurance policy. And I’ll know that half the people probably are just never going to see that part of the spreadsheet. For some reason, it never shows up on my end. I don’t know if the GPP day, I never heard of it, and that’s okay. But I think I like to use that as an insurance policy. I think it’s good to have that in there just in case. But that’s kind of the extent of it. If you’re really talking about full blown hyper Truby training, like, I want to use all the resources towards the stuff that’s going to drive that adaptation.
James Cerbie: Yeah. I think full blown hypertrophy or full blown strength. I think what you just said is totally spot on where you still need those coordination, sensory motor inputs.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Right.
James Cerbie: Because those are the people that come to us are like, hey, I feel like I got run over by a bus.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Everything. The distinct back hurt.
Breakdown of GPP Training Days
James Cerbie: It hurts, my knees hurt, and it’s just you look at the training you’re like, Well, bro, we’re not getting any of this one input. This isn’t going to be the majority of your input, but you need some of this stuff just so you can actually feel good and keep the car operating. It’s just like taking the car to go shopping at work. And I think when we’re talking in that realm, what you said is totally spot on, which is the best place to put that for those people is going to be on those GPP low conditioning days.
Hey, here’s what I’m going to do. You’re going to go a salt bike for 20 minutes and then you’re going to go three rounds with this bodyweight circuit and that body weight circuit is going to be all these things we’ve talked about, lots of unilateral things, get in the frontal plane, get some rotation, all the stuff they’re probably not going to really be getting in training, but they need so they can just feel good and they generally do right away.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: They usually leave those sessions feeling really good. And I think from what we can deal with, especially online and as trainers, when it comes to pain, it’s like we’re my approach with that stuff. I’m not a high level physical therapist. I don’t have a super high level education with biomechanics. I understand a decent amount enough to get by and where I come in. As far as pain goes, it’s like, I’m willing to look at what things you are doing exclusively. And how do I get you away from some of those things?
And does that send a different signal to your brain and you end up leaving that session feeling better, reinforcing that exercise does not have to be painful. And I think that that can kind of put an end to that loop a lot of times with people. I just had a guy start last week and it was just like, just did some different stuff like that. Basically it just had them thinking about different things, feeling different things. And part of feeling different things is not feeling that pain that was associated with walking into the gym.
There wasn’t anything super exciting, but just that is enough a lot of times to get people rolling and that I don’t think you can just take better machines or better set up for that type of stuff because I think it’s a deficiency and just the move. It variability at some point or just their variances, like everything at some point kind of becomes the same thing. And that just from an overuse injury perspective, is going to probably lead to some not great feeling joints at some point or not. Great feeling muscles. So just having some different inputs seems to be really helpful.
James Cerbie: Yeah. 100% agree. I think that based off our experience at Rebel collectively, that is what we see over and over and over again, time and time again. I saw it when I first started training ten years ago, and it’s the same story that repeats. You can even take someone who’s training looks really smart. It looks really good. They do a good job with their exercise selection. They do a job exit the set up and the execution and the feel. But they end up still feeling like poop if they’re just not getting these certain types of inputs.
Right. And that’s the distinction that’s so important. And again, just a quick summary for people, because we’re kind of coming up on the back end of this year, you should be using machines in your training if you’re not assuming you have access to them, because like we mentioned at the beginning, the cost factor is pretty big. Machines make the most sense when we’re talking output, big output exercises. If you’re not competing in a sport that is going to dictate, you have to do this exact exercise and you just care about getting stronger and a squat getting stronger and a press.
A machine makes a lot of sense. You can shut your brain off. You can focus on just moving load and moving. It is as hard and fast and powerful as you can have strength, hypertrophy, and power. I don’t know if a machine I don’t know if anything will be the machine and just building those things. Right. We have the upper body pulling concerns and the lower body concerns as well. So it is really hard for you to do upper body pulling to build back, especially labs if you don’t have access to machines.
And if you’re doing squats with a bar or deadlifting with a bar, your legs are not going to probably be the first thing to give out on that.
Bringing Functional Training and Machine Training Together Full Circle
So it’s another reason that machines make a lot of sense there. But then we start transitioning and talking about, okay, machines make a lot of sense for output. But we still want to make sure that we’re bringing in this more sensory motor world, which is maybe what the whole air, quote, functional training thing was trying to get at. I just got blown way out of proportion, right. Because we can’t just throw machines out entirely. They are so important. They play a huge role in training. We need to bring the two worlds together full circle. Look at this. Here we go. When ideas have sex.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Will not contribute to that. It’s going to go down a little, right.
James Cerbie: We need to bring those two worlds together because I think the functional training people got some stuff right. And the machine people have a lot of stuff, right. We got to bring the two worlds together because they both make sense as long as they’re being used for the right reasons. And you understand why you’re using them totally.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: And there’s good looking people up all of those gyms. So there’s no reason why we can all come together.
James Cerbie: I go there.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Yeah, I’ll just say I think I appreciate the functional fitness thing. I think it did bring up some deficiencies and a lot of the training, but like you said, you can’t just throw out some of the stuff that’s still there. If it’s accessible to you, you’d still be super beneficial. I will say that was probably the worst era of fitness. I will go out and say that I think that it’s ending now, I hope. And it was definitely the worst era of my life up until this point. I can say that like, it’s just like, man, I really got it. I got to do get ups right now, like it takes.
James Cerbie: So it’s like, what am I doing?
Ryan L’Ecuyer: I literally feel like this can’t be doing anything. There’s just no chance of actually doing anything, but I don’t want to, like, boy, I think I’m an idiot. So this is what I’m doing. And I think that that was a really trying time for me. That was a very hard time. And I’m really glad that I am at least past that. And it’s like, I can appreciate both sides. And I can appreciate my goal for me personally, it doesn’t require all that stuff. And I think that a lot of many people’s goals do not require that level of craziness with the coordination type of stuff.
But it definitely does serve its purpose. And it just really comes down to like, where is this person going? Where are they planning to go? Where are they coming from and what is their current state? And then you can make a good assessment of where you’re going to intervene at that point.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I really for the life making not picture you doing a purchase, get up.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: It’s the worst thing ever. I hope that I never do one ever again. I mean, I literally hate it. You know, it’s funny. I actually had a lot of the thought of my initial statement about where all this stuff came from was from a client who was his physical therapist, that I trained one of my first clients, and he dropped a couple of bombs on me during the five, six years that I trained with him. He was kind of an ornery man, but I really appreciated him.
And one of the things that he said to me was I was having to do this Turkish get up that I had planned this progression out for eight weeks in advance of, like, okay, this week, you’re just going to push off onto your shoulder and stabilize your scapula or whatever the fuck the kind of things I was saying at that point, and I was having to do this thing, and he’s just, like, pissed just looking at me like, I cannot believe I’m paying for this. And I’m looking at him like, how do you not understand how functional you’re going to be?
Like, imagine if you were to fold down and a baby landed on you, and I don’t know, steaming acid on the ground and you need to lift this baby up. I push myself up at the same time. This is life. These are the things that you’ll encounter, and I could understand it. And this is fucking stupid. He’s like, I’m not doing this. I’m like what, do you mean you’re doing this? He’s like, this is just an exercise that personal trainers make up to make themselves feel like they’re needed.
And I was like, you might be right about that. You actually might be right about that, because I went as a personal trainer and paid a lot of money for someone else to teach me how to do this. They got me too, man. There’s just a lot of those kinds of moments in my life as I was going through these things, and it’s just good to be passed for me. I’m in a good place.
James Cerbie: I agree, man. I will throw out one here. This probably piss some people off in the crowd. One exercise that I really just don’t like and despise that I think is way over utilized again. This is going to really upset a certain crowd of people because they have their own certification, even though we don’t give out certifications for equipment. No other piece of equipment gets a certification, but this one has its own, like, certification. The kettlebell kind of pisses the bank in particular, the kettlebell swing. It just I have a hard time figuring out where this exercise fits because I’m not getting stronger.
I’m not definitely not getting hypertrophy. Maybe I’m getting a little bit of power, but why not just fucking do a broad jump or throw something? Because it would be a far more effective exercise to build power. The only place a kettlebell swing makes sense is when you’re getting tired. Yeah, it’s just a conditioning exercise.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: I think so.
James Cerbie: That’s going to piss off a lot of Kataba people. But I’ve been thinking about this more and more, and I’m trying to figure out it just maybe as a priming, I can see it as a priming exercise for that sometimes. Maybe I want to, like, pop it a few times and then go into a jump or throw just to try to prime and get things going. But by itself, I have a hard time really appreciating what it brings to the table. It makes sense in a metcon and the conditioning, but it’s not gonna be stronger.
Maybe it helps with power, but they are far better options, and it’s definitely not getting hypertrophy. I just don’t think it’s a great time.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: I was going to say as well. If it’s not going to do all the fault, it’s better to at least teach you exercise really well. And I do not think that’s a great way to teach. Teach. If they can do that, they already can do a hinge. Like, if you’re going to throw a high velocity hinge, then that means they’ve already learned the hinge. Yeah, that’s funny. That’s one that I haven’t prescribed in a very long time. And I used to a lot, because again, I just kind of thought it was something I was supposed to do, but definitely I could see it in, like, these, like, conditioning type of circuits or whatever.
They can feel like they feel pretty good, just subjectively. I feel like if you’re as soon as your hamstrings are a little sore, something going into a session, it’s kind of nice because it’s not like they’re getting heavily loaded centrically, but the weight is really light. It’s really fast, so even be getting some blood flow going in that area and that kind of anticipative soreness or something. But, yeah, it’s like someone has an idea, and then they need to build a rationale around the idea and they need to make money off of that.
And that did a hell of a job, right? I mean, those courses are clocking expenses, man. They’re going to get recertified. And, man, they did a pretty good job.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Well, I’m just going to wait for the hate mail to come out after this one. Well, tell them to direct it to my Instagram very few people.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: And I’ll get back to them right away.
James Cerbie: Perfect. I will.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: 24 away.
James Cerbie: You’ll hear from Ryan? Yeah. Very few people are as passionate about a piece of equipment as the kettlebell swing.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: I thought you were gonna say TRX is what I thought you were going to say. Yeah, but we won’t go there either.
James Cerbie: Yeah. Like, what a I don’t know how the world those people are convinced so many people to spend money on that thing.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: It made a lot of sense for what it started. As I’m in the middle of the desert. I don’t have anywhere to work out like this is the thing that I have that makes sense. Like I have told people to bring similar things with the kettle. Exactly.
James Cerbie: If you have no other equipment and all I have is a kettlebell, the people can do an unbelievable job of that. I think it’s unbelievably impressive if all you have is kettlebells and they manage to do some really incredible things.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Sure.
James Cerbie: I think that tactical athlete challenge is really impressive. That kettlebell snatch with that big bell that is sure.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: No doubt.
James Cerbie: So I would like to be clear that I’m not saying kettlebells are dumb. I’m just saying that one exercise. I don’t really. Yeah, I’m a little too. That’s what we should do. We should make a Tshirt. Just have a unicycle and then it just says stop taking time and then like.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Why is this every expensive unicycle? It is because it is one to see a unicycle. Okay.
James Cerbie: Excellent. Ryan, thanks so much, everybody. I hope you guys enjoyed this one and have a fantastic week.
Ryan L’Ecuyer: Thanks man.
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