Critical Thinking In Strength And Conditioning


“Education in the critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizens.” – William Graham Sumner

There is an issue within fitness and sports industry, the issue of misinformation and quackery. Many threads on websites like T-nation and bodybuilding.com dedicated to the nonsense that some personal trainers spew. Many of these trainers have gained their certificates from supposedly legitimate organizations. But this begs the question, did they sleep through their lectures?

http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=1169202

The other danger is Sports coaches without support will recommend training programs either they themselves use or used during their former competing years. While their intentions are good, they fail to check up on what the sports science community is doing in terms of strength and conditioning to ensure the best for their athletes (sadly gross roots Strength and conditioning support in the UK is pitiful, but thats another issue). It makes sense that ego’s can get hurt when someone tries to correct them.

Brief story highlighting my point “many years ago I once corrected a woman with terrible squat form because she was in danger of hurting her self, she was turning it into a knee extension good morning, she was happy for my help, mentioned “something didn’t feel right” and carried on. What i didn’t know was she was another trainers client. I’m approached by the trainer who is incensed that i correct one of his clients. This trainer was Reps level II and Wabba certified and even mentioned that in our conversation. He mentioned that his squatting instruction was sub par. But still his ego, obviously was hurt”

The other thing to avoid is fad’s,trends and unspeak. The big one here is use of the word “functional training”. This is shrewd wordplay because if training is called functional then surely everything else is nonfunctional. “Don’t listen to him his training isn’t functional”. All training is functional as long as performance goals are met.

Other trends included, bosu balls, swiss balls for everything, power blades, high reps, parachute pants, doo rags and Gillian Mckeith. Because people did’nt take a step back and think critically about the usefulness of such things and someone made alot of money from their ignorance.

The way i and im sure other critical thinking coaches train athletes is evolving all the time, while the core of what i do has’nt changed much in 4 years, because of fundamental truths ( aka “lifting heavy will make you stronger”), the accessory work i do, nutritional interventions, recovery work etc keeps changing and improving as new research comes to light. What im doing in 10 years maybe totally different because something bigger and better maybe just around the corner.

The Sports Science area’s teaching and learning philosophy is focused on developing independent critical thinkers who have the knowledge and the skills to work in the fitness, health and sport industries. The emphasis is on students applying the theoretical and conceptual bases for physical activity to the real world. Some conversely seemingly don’t make that real world jump and are so bound up in theory and idea’s that they hav’nt taken the time to test them. Thusly not deciding to implement or discard them.

Good teachers cultivate critical thinking, some example questions you should be asking are:

  • What is the source of your information?
  • What is the source of information in the report?
  • What assumption has led you to that conclusion?
  • Suppose you are wrong. What are the implications?
  • Why did you make that inference? Is another one more consistent with the data?
  • Why is this issue significant?
  • How do I know that what you are saying is true?
  • What is an alternate explanation for this phenomenon?

there are many other possible Socratic questions. The key is that the teacher who fosters critical thinking fosters reflectiveness in students by asking questions that stimulate thinking essential to the construction of knowledge.

“Have some respect for the profession. Get your bullshit certification and use it to get a job. Afterwards, throw the certification away and forget most of the stuff you learned. Read. Study. Ask questions. Become legitimate.” -TC Luoma


Jim Wendler on internet training culture

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