How Good Could You Be? Guest post from Gym Movement creator Frankie Faires

by adam on February 9, 2010

Frankie instructing grappling classes in Dallas TX

Note from Adam: I’m happy to have Frankie Faires here crashing the party with a guest post.  Read, then think, then act.  Repeat.

Program Design

How much would you pay for a computer that had faster processing speeds every time you used it?

How much would you pay for a car that got better gas mileage every time you drove it?

That may seem more like science fiction that technological innovation but this sort of thing happens all the time….at least biologically.

What happens if you have never practiced guitar and then practice 1 hr daily for three months…or if you’ve never ran but then run day after day for a few months.

What inevitably happens with all skills, whether gross motor or fine motor, is in general: the more you practice the better you get.

The correct term for this process of getting better is adaptation and is perhaps the most popular and least understood physiological mechanism within the body.

You have experienced the positive results of adaptation.  When you first started with an exercise, exercise tool or exercise program, you probably had great results.

But Perhaps It didn’t last

But inevitably, results slowed, stopped or worst case scenario – you get injured performing an exercise you were once able to make progress in.  This, too, is adaptation but is considered a negative adaptation.

Why would something that once made you more muscular, leaner, stronger and more energized now make you smaller, fatter, weaker and fatigued?

Theory

To be honest, I don’t know…nor does anyone else. I have theories that I think are far more accurate than the theories of other fitness schools….but do you really need another theory even if it is a better theory?

Wouldn’t you prefer a better practice?

Wouldn’t you prefer a practice that:

  • increases fat loss
  • increases muscle gain
  • decreases the risk of injury
  • and promises a PR (personal record) every time you go to the gym?

It’s getting easier, not harder

Our “in the trenches field testing” has been showing for nearly two years that progress can be made EVERY time one goes to the gym.  It isn’t getting harder to get results; it isn’t getting trickier, it is getting easier and perpetual progress is getting more predictable…and it doesn’t appear that it will stop any time soon.

But there’s a caveat: progress is not linear. Here’s what I mean:  You cannot get good at the bench press every day….but you can get better at something.  You can lift more weight, do more reps, do more sets and rest less doing some exercise.

This should appeal to your common sense.  How healthy would it be to eat the same foods for 4-6 weeks in a row?  Why then is it that coaches think exercises can be good for the body for that amount of time?

Progress is non-linear

I realize that PR’ing every workout seems highly unrealistic.  That is only because you have been trying to make linear progress.  Physiology is non-linear as is progress…but progress appears to be perpetual.

Perhaps the reason we’re getting worse is because we’re trying to get better at the wrong things.

If we test to see what are the right things to get better at, we can always get better.

So:

  • test your exercises
  • test your load
  • test your reps
  • test your rest periods
  • test your sets.
  • Most importantly… test your belief systems

…so that you can put your body to the test

…and finally answer,

“How good can I really be?”

Please, let’s talk in the comments section.  Movements need movers, and I know you have questions.  I will answer what I can, but realize that you will need to take action for things to make sense.  Theory only takes us so far.

PS (Need to know how to test?  We have the simplest answer.  Purchase Gym Movement here today!)

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{ 51 comments }

david February 9, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Frankie, thank you.

Mark February 9, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Thank you x 2 Frankie. I hope that everyone that stops by to read this incorporates it immediately. They will be happy they did.

josh February 9, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Mark, did you make it home?

Mark February 10, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Josh, made it home on Tuesday. Spending some extra time with Brad was good for me and my business plans. Got to check out David’s house on Sunday for some Super Bowl food and fun. What a pad he has. Thanks again David if you happen to read this. Flip cam’d some great video from Brad’s classes on Monday and got a 20 min workout in of DL’s and MP’s where I moved 710 lbs per min. 14,200 lbs, not bad considering I was still sore from Saturday’s primal patterns workout. I slept 13 hours last night and finally feel back to normal today.

Christian February 9, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Just bought your DVD oh about 2 seconds ago, looking at your free gifts… I’ll let you know how my progress goes :)

josh February 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Christian, what is your training like right now?

Christian February 9, 2010 at 9:46 pm

I have none, I’m in season for sports just trying to maintain weight.

My first goal is Mass gain, I’m already pretty fast, and I play hockey so everything I do is to improve my level of play.

Basically this is how it went the last two years, with each year getting me near nowhere except for my body working:
8th Grade- Ran Track, messed up my hip, did a 5X5 put on 20lbs got up to 130lbs and hit my growth spurt. This was filled with lots of random work and constantly hurting hip/knees
9th Grade- Preseason: after track I messed up my knees running & Football (Which I later quit,Oh joy!) and just worked on getting them better
9th Grade- Post Hockey season- Went for a run, tweaked my knee did some random parkour stuff, lots of deadlifts + pull ups. Still had some knee pain w/ random spurts were it would get worse.
10th Grade- Soccer Season- Random aches and pains got me into great conditioning but I sucked at the sport
10th Grade- Hockey Season- Its coming to an end, still some random pain issues but not nearly as bad. I’m pretty good shape, but still way to skinny 140lbs maintained through out the season but my fat levels are higher then where they were during soccer. I’m going to eat much better after hockey ends, I ate paleo in the summer.

I am waiting for the DVD to see how I should structure my work outs. I own a squat rack, Bench, and 300lbs of weights. Also I have access to a nicer High school weight room which has a lot of nice equipment so I can mix it up. Once summer starts I believe the gym is closed though which kind of sucks.

So going into this I have basically a blank slate, I have about 6 months to train… A pretty well rounded diet, and Hopefully I can progress nicely. *Like every other guy it would be nice to have a 6 pack + 10lbs or more by summer which I think if I apply myself strictly adhering to my diet I think it should be obtainable.

Sorry for the long response

david February 9, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Man, I wish I knew when I was in high school what I know now. You are going to adapt so ridiculously quickly.

Number one thing you should focus on in my humble opinion: deadlifts.

josh February 9, 2010 at 8:41 pm

The answer to “how good can I be?” will surprise me, even though I’ve already seen big results. I moved a hellacious amount of weight tonight in 20 minutes (40,000 plus) and I could have gone for another hour. Thanks Frankie.

david February 9, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Josh, I gotta ask…what did you do to move 40k+ in 20 minutes? You are a monster my friend.

josh February 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Deadlifts, Axle presses, kb rows with the 32s. Easy does it:)

david February 9, 2010 at 9:27 pm

I have work to do.

George February 9, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Frankie,

First, thank you. Great post. Second Mark and Josh’s sentiments.

“How good can I be?” left me grinning as I continued to deadlift for close to 2 hours on Sunday.

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 11:01 am

George,

I dig it!
Continue leading from the front!

Frankie Faires February 9, 2010 at 11:18 pm

David,
I have heard nothing but good things about you. Can’t wait to meet you…and you’re welcome!

Mark,
Many think…few act…but I hope they do, too! Congrats for being one of those who act.

Josh,
Adam and I talk about it being second nature now to expect a PR…how f’n crazy is that? Are you used to that yet?

Christian,
Cannot wait for you to apply this information. Your generation will be leading us all very soon. Train well!

josh February 10, 2010 at 10:55 am

Frankie, it’s good and it’s bad. I don’t really celebrate the PRs anymore:)

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 11:02 am

Something like the idea of:
What does a person do before enlightenment?
Practices.
What does a person do after enlightenment?
Practices.

Kira February 9, 2010 at 11:49 pm

If this turns out to be correct, (and yes, I’m still skeptical, even though I’m getting great results) it has far greater application than merely strength and conditioning … movement is movement … and that means technical work and performance can also be enhanced using this approach.

From a fighter’s perspective (the one I’m particularly interested in) we’re talking about a way to determine whether punching the mitts or kicking the pads is the best option for the session … or even down to which punches/combos will I get the most improvement in each session etc.

Furthermore … testing a fighter before a fight can significantly alter/enhance the strategy he uses in the fight (eg. if punching tests better than kicking then perhaps a more hands focused strategy would be appropriate etc.

All I’m saying is, that if testing correlates with movement … all movement can be improved … and that is exciting

Looking forward to receiving my DVD :)

Cheers!

josh February 10, 2010 at 10:56 am

Kira, the best thing you can do is stay skeptical. I will say that from where i’m standing, you’re spot on about the bigger applications. I’ve been working with these guys on some Tourette’s stuff, and I have figured some things out–just movements, stances, and eye positions–that are calming me down very quickly.

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 11:10 am

Kira,

You are on it! Esp related to movement practice.
I coach fighters and bjj players so this is my main area of application.

Consider that sometimes we have to do those things that don’t test well – fighters especially!
Whatever situation we are going to be in – we have to train for.

There is a strategy I have for my fighter that is very jab dependent.
I don’t give a #%$@ how bad the jab is testing on fight day – he is jabbing!
That means that I need to find the MINIMAL effective amount
of “distress” training for his jab
so that he is prepared to throw that jab effectively -
no matter how poorly it tests on fight day.

But-
for most people
(including my fighters)
in most instances
I want to find the MAXIMAL effective amount of “eustress” training
and the MINIMAL effective amount of “distress” training.

How much is that?
Very individual specific.

Make sense?

and well done on the insights!

Stephen Ruiz February 10, 2010 at 4:24 am

Still amazed by BF! Even though I am doing the testing, I find myself giggling that one movement “tests” better than another. I find myself testing and re-testing b/c I really want to perform a certain exercise, but it just “won’t test well” that day (ugh!) — however, another movement does and off we go! Crazy…

Thanks, Frankie — you are a genius! BTW, it has been a month since my “crash course” — let’s get ready for another!

josh February 10, 2010 at 10:57 am

Stephen, I want you to post a video of you giggling during a test. And you should come write a guest post here about your experience so far!

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 11:13 am

The big take away for Steve was that any movement –
even that SACRED COW “joint mobility” –
can be bad for you at a particular given time.

Joint Mobility is just another one of the fitness trends
we have bought into
hook, line and sinker
and haven’t put to the test….

but that’s a whole other blog post.

Casey February 10, 2010 at 7:33 am

Just got mine in the mail last night. Will be reporting results in the future. Josh, 40K in 20min is one ass kicker of a work rate, good show my friend!

josh February 10, 2010 at 10:57 am

The funny thing is, it didn’t feel like an ass-kicker. Not at all.

Rachael February 10, 2010 at 9:21 am

I get how to apply the testing for solo weight lifting workouts. I am currently trying to figure out how it applied to group classes (especially ones geared towards fat lose.)

This morning was the first time I tried this out in a group class. Today was a circuit class with 14 stations. I arrived early and started testing the 14 movements. In the back of my head, I have this thought that the exercises that were “easy” for me would test well and the ones I thought of as “hard” would test poorly. Presses, squats and halos all gave me a 3 inch improvement on my toe touch. Just as I was thinking, “what? Is everything going to test well?” I tried the overhead squat and suitcase lunges. Snap, my toe touch returned to my baseline for the day and swings was worse. Interesting. I did not get through all 13 moves before the class started, but as I got to a new station, I did two reps and then tested. If it tested well, I went for it. Though it was hard to remember to stop at the first sign of tension or breathing changes. For things that did not test well, I substituted DL, one hand DL, BW squats, squat holds.

The thing that surprised me the most was the moves involving jumping tested well. Since the last time I injured my knee and finally had my ACL replace, jumping has been on the “I don’t” list. Burpees with a jump, box jumps and jump backs; all tested well. In some cases, it only took two or three reps before I noticed a change in tension or breathing. But they continued to test well through all three sets.

Just a few more observations:

1. I did not feel dead at the end of the workout. More like I could continue for at least another round. That’s defiantly a first.
2. I watched others grimace and grunt their way through the workout. In contrast, I felt more at easy. Do what I can, but only as long as it still had that flowing easy feel to it.

In a way, it almost felt like I was slacking off. It wasn’t very hard. I didn’t huff and puff my way through. I am having a hard time believing this will get me the results I am looking for. However I know only time will tell. I have to put in the reps. Patience.

Does it sound like I am on the right page?????

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 11:16 am

Rachael,

Sounds like you are definitely on the right page!
Keep us updated on your progress.

Brad Johnson February 10, 2010 at 11:50 am

I’ve been testing and implementing these principles in my training for only about two weeks now, but I greatly enjoy it and feel significantly more confident in my choices. I wonder, however, exactly why the body responds to exersize with increases in ROM in seemingly unrelated areas. For example, why should an increase in toe-touch ROM indicate a positive response to an overhead press? What mechanism is at work here? It appears from my own testing that the method has merit, but the question of why it works seems unanswered.

Thank you.

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Brad,

As long as you mistake theory for certainty…
here you go:

I believe these tests to be related the sympathetic/parasympathetic tone of the Nervous System.

If you do something “good” for the body,
sympathetic tone decreases
parasympathetic increases

consequently,
all movement quantities such as:
speed
strength
ROM

increase.

That’s my thought behind why it works….
for now.

Remember, it’s only a theory.
Hopefully, this explanation will inspire you to even greater degrees of action.

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 2:16 pm

oops

“As long as you DON’T mistake theory for certainty….”

Brad Johnson February 10, 2010 at 3:16 pm

That makes sense, and we don’t particularly need certainty – I see a limited need for a perfect explanation so long as I see results, at that point it becomes needless reductionism.

Also, how do you feel about additional (untested) movement. For example, I take very long barefoot walks in addition to my kettlebell and weight training, mostly for pleasure. Would you consider this a positive factor or negative factor?

adam February 10, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Brad- if you like it do it. All things can be tested, if you know what measuring stick to use. We are not saying “STOP DOING IT”, we are saying examine it, measure it, and decide upon it. Or not, its your choice

adam February 10, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Movement either makes you Stronger/faster/move better,or it can make you weaker, slower, move worse. Everyone wants a “Why ….Here is a fun game, email 25 top trainers across the globe and ask them what they think. Afterwards, have them explain why their training “works” watch with a smile the quasi-science roll off their lip At the end of the day no one knows, but knowing is not half the battle, action is half the battle. The other half is knowing what action to take. TEST, than ACT

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Holy shit,
that’s our new catch phrase!

Randy Hauer February 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Frankie,
I’m with you on the non linear aspects of training.

In my sport (Oly WL) we are always balancing specificity with variety. SAID is really what I base my programming philosophy on. If a movement is worth doing, it is worth doing most of the time. Detraining is a reality. Having said that, I agree it’s not healthy doing exactly the same things day in day out, so we have to balance specificity with variety. But there has to be carryover so that gains in the comp lifts are not lost via detraining. Fortunately, in WL we have dozens of assistance exercises that carryover to the competition lifts. They have different loading parameters, ROM, speed, rep schemes etc. For example, PRing on a power snatch is a lot different than PRing on a front squat.
How does Gym Movement balance the requirements of SAID with variety? (This balancing act, just for example, is approached by Louie Simmons WSB by rotating assistance exercise every two weeks and constantly attempting PRs only on those assistance movements. The competition movements are always trained dynamically and for speed.) Would I just test my usual menu of assistance work for that day and see what tests best?

And how do you square things with Seyle’s GAS? (Conventionally speaking, the more advanced the athlete gets, the more loading they require. To get an adaptation, the body has to be forced out of equilibrium by training…advanced athletes with high work capacity aren’t sufficiently stressed to adapt until weeks of training dosages are applied.) Advanced athletes don’t see PRs very often. At least not on the main exercises. By the time you are an Olympian, you are working to keep technique sharp and wring out that last bit untapped genetic potential. Multiple Olympiad athletes rarely improve from their first Olympics to their last Olympics. Progress generally tapers off with chronological age and training age.

Thanks Frankie.

Randy

david February 10, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Dare I be so bold as to suggest that maybe they’re training wrong?

josh February 10, 2010 at 2:19 pm

No, you dasn’t.

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Randy,

Thanks so much for the well thought out inquiry.
Let’s start at the end…
which is really the foundation of the rest of your questions:

“And how do you square things with Seyle’s GAS? (Conventionally speaking, the more advanced the athlete gets, the more loading they require. To get an adaptation, the body has to be forced out of equilibrium by training…”

Randy,
I disagree with this entire premise.
I am much more friendly to the Selye/Lazurus idea of eustress/distress
Set points, equilibrium, homeostasis and allostasis are all points of major interest for me.
More to come on those later.

As I understand it now -
Adaptation doesn’t have an off switch.
It doesn’t need to be forced…
it cannot be stopped.

The question is:
What is the body learning (adapting to)?
Is it learning that getting PRs is easy and frequent?
or
Is it learning that getting PRs is hard and rare?

I find adaptation to be just THAT specific – if not even more so.
I am working on a blog post on Adaptation…
so more to come.

“…Advanced athletes don’t see PRs very often. At least not on the main exercises. By the time you are an Olympian, you are working to keep technique sharp and wring out that last bit untapped genetic potential. Multiple Olympiad athletes rarely improve from their first Olympics to their last Olympics. Progress generally tapers off with chronological age and training age.”

I don’t see this as “genetic” potential,
I see it as “structural” potential.
If I understand Wolff’s Law / Davis’ Corollary correctly,
there is far more potential to be had.

“How does Gym Movement balance the requirements of SAID with variety? (This balancing act, just for example, is approached by Louie Simmons WSB by rotating assistance exercise every two weeks and constantly attempting PRs only on those assistance movements. The competition movements are always trained dynamically and for speed.) Would I just test my usual menu of assistance work for that day and see what tests best?”

Yes,
That would be the “Component Specific” level of the model.
Test the:
Movement
Load
Reps (observe)
Rest Periods
Sets

Randy,
The Gym Movement Protocol is about maximizing health.
Since performance is a function of health,
if health increases,
performance can, as well.

Let me be explicit:
The Gym Movement protocol isn’t about PRing in a OL specific or accessory lift each wkt.
It is about PRing in a lift that will increase your health each wkt.
I believe that sometimes your best workout is one that is completely opposite to OL.
(Contra-Specific Level)
or one that has nothing to do with OL
(Non-Specific Level)

I believe that if you follow this model,
there are far more PRs to be had in your OL practice.

But only one way to know….
TEST IT!

Thanks Frankie.

Randy

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 2:46 pm

and thanks again Randy
for your good balance
of skepticism and open minded-ness.

Randy Hauer February 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Frankie,
I’m all about working smart over just working hard. And I love paradigm shifts. My gut tells me this may be one of those but my head says proceed with caution. The fact that two people I have come to respect very much (Adam and Josh) have had such great results working with your program has me very intrigued. However, your own advice has me behaving in an uncharacteristically Reaganesque way: trust but verify!
Best,
R

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Randy,
What was your MO before “doveryai, no proveryai?”

adam February 10, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Randy, maybe we are bat shit crazy :) Only you can decide for yourself. Question everytime, question us, but most importantly question yourself. You know how to get results, but what if you missed the BEST path to results? That question to me was huge. Ego, pride, and “experience” only get in the way. I look back over the last 10 years, i know alot of stuff, and 90% of it is simply incorrect. Keep testing stuff, keep questioning. All the time

adam February 10, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Word

Joe Musselwhite April 18, 2010 at 11:14 am

Frankie,

Have you read Harold Frost’ refinement of Wolff’s Law?

Mechanostat Theorem.

Bone adaptation (bone mass/bone strength) didn’t occur except in overloaded
conditions. Without the overload, adaptation remained constant.

I found it interesting so I thought I would throw it by you. You’re probably
familiar with it already.

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 3:44 pm

The only thing trust is for me to be me….
everytime!

Mark February 10, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Frankie, Adam, Josh and David…..PR’s are becoming a daily event. Watch out 250 and ripped. And yes Adam when I hit it I will put baby oil on my biceps. Monday at Kinetic Edge Performance I combined KB single arm MP with conventional DL. I moved 15,000 lbs in 20 minutes. That’s 750 lbs. per minute. How you like me now? That total could have been more but Brad and I were busy talking about how good our chosen exercises were testing for that day. I took yesterday off as I needed rest from my weekend and from traveling back to Fargo. Tonight KB front squat tested great as did hamstring movements. TRX leg curls were best. I moved 9000 lbs in the FSQ in 15 minutes. That’s a 2500 lb. improvement over my last FSQ session. That poundage doesn’t include what was moved on the TRX. This is going to be amazing to see where I am in 3 month, 6 months and a year from now. Thank you for showing me the light.

frank February 10, 2010 at 8:22 pm

do you guys that have been doing the biofeedback for a while think that in the beginning you start with longer rest periods inbetween sets. Tonight i did kb deads with kb double rows. They tested best but man it took a while for my rom to return. it took me an hour to move 16000 pounds. Not good at all . Monday 27000 pounds, nothing to brag about, but i wonder if it may take a little bit until my body gets more balanced. Almost every time i train rows and deads are good. I have been doing biofeedback for A month now, but only to pick my exercises, not rest period or sets. I just started doing the entire program since saturday. I can all ready tell my body is moving better, and less pain. Its a great feeling. I am guessing that as ones body is more balanced you are able to recover faster and move more weight.

Frankie Faires February 10, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Frank,

Not all PRs are Volume based.
Move forward in any direction you can.
If those two movements test well,
then you can PR in them
either in:
Weight
Reps
Rest Periods
Sets

Yes,
I believe you are right.
More balanced bodies recover faster and can handle more load (comparably).

steve meidinger March 19, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Adam,
You guys ARE bat shit crazy…and a goddamn breathe of fresh air.

Frankie Faires March 20, 2010 at 12:22 am

Thanks, Steve!

adam March 20, 2010 at 1:02 am

LOL Yes we are on both accounts. Just like Chris Columbus telling everyone the world is round and he will sail to India by heading west. That turned out pretty nice overall…

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