May 02, 2024 3 min read

By Shane Robert

As someone who makes their living training and coaching people, it would seem logical that I would be the first to push people toward coaching. Afterall, there is no faster way to improve any skill than to have the guidance of someone more experienced and knowledgeable than you. Their years of putting in hard work means you get a warp drive toward success, skipping over the typical speed bumps that others encounter. I don’t agree.

Coaching is great. If you have the desire and financial resources to hire a coach, for anything, then by all means do so, I don’t begrudge that. As I said above, that is literally how I make my living, but we are in this weird place where it feels like we are being told that we NEED a coach. For everything. 

Want to get stronger? Hire a coach. 

Need better time management? Hire a coach. 

Want to organize your house? Hire a coach

Want to lose weight? Hire a coach

I think you get the point. There is almost nothing that people aren’t pushed to hire a coach for (or use whatever synonym for coach you like). Aside from the monetary cost that this entails, which is often substantial, we lose very important learning opportunities from never encountering hurdles. I have never seen a quote or motivational saying that says, “100% success all the time with no failures is the best way to learn and master something.” Quite the opposite. By never encountering hardship or outright failure in an endeavor, we only learn that that one particular thing works, never understanding that other things might also work, or why that one thing works. This leads to a fear of branching out to try new things and, perhaps, finding that they work better.

This happens a lot in online communities that deal with lifting. A new lifter will ask a question and, rather than simply answer, they say “get a coach.” While this answer might be appropriate, particularly for learning new movements, it isn’t something that has to be ongoing. Unfortunately, most coaching is not designed to empower and teach the trainee. It simply asks that they follow blindly and not question why, causing the trainee to be reliant on the coach. (CAVEAT: great coaches will encourage you to ask why and DO want to empower their trainees to learn from the process. Sadly there aren’t that many great coaches). I see this attitude even more when someone tries to create a program on their own. They are scolded and told to follow an established program or hire a coach, as if all of this training stuff is so immensely complicated no one could possibly figure it out on their own. Please ignore that most of the great lifters of the past did exactly that. The trial and error, success or failure of trying different established programs, or ideas of your own, is what leads to new ways of doing something. 

By scaring people away from experimenting with their training, we lose a lot as a community. Looking at programs from the past shows what a wide variety of training people were doing as a result of simply trying on their own. Today, there is much less variety in the programs being put out. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen coaches prescribe working up to a single @8 RPE, then drop 20% for 3-5x3-5 @8 RPE. I’m not going to sit here and say that this can’t work, but I am confident that it won’t work for everyone. Compare this to something like the Hepburn method or Lamar Gant’s deadlift routine (which calls for doing 5x8 with 78%!) and you’ll see how vastly different training was/can be. 

I’m not against coaches. I am against the idea that you shouldn’t experiment and learn on your own. Maybe the guidance of a coach will be useful in your learning process. Maybe a book or a ton of articles will be enough for what you need. However you get there, I believe there is value in seeing and experiencing a lot of different ways to train, rather than simply becoming a clone of someone else's cookie cutter program.

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