3 Questions For Better Workouts (T-Nation article)



By asking yourself 3 simple questions, you could improve all your future workouts. In this article from T-nation Charles Stale presents 3 important questions you can apply to fine-tune your critical-thinking ability. As the author states:

“Better critical thinking leads to better decision-making, which in turn leads to more results from your workouts”

In spite of this correlation, many (most?) CrossFitters sometimes forget to reflect over all the information and training suggestions posted online. Next time your training buddy or CF coach presents you with the ‘latest revolutionary squat program’ or something similar – try applying the 3 questions 🙂

Below you’ll find the 1st question from the article, check out the rest of the article here.

Question #1: “Compared To What?”

This first question is designed to distinguish between “what works?” and “what’s optimal?” Look, let’s be honest – almost anything you do in the gym has the potential to “work,” as long as you don’t get hurt in the process.

So to simply ask whether or not something works is a poor form of inquiry. A much better question is, “Compared to what?”

Imagine a college-age kid who’s trying to furnish his first studio apartment on limited funds. Staring at his empty apartment and then at his meager bank account he thinks, “OK, what do I really need most?”

Sure, it’d be great to have a sofa or a TV, but he can’t justify those items given the fact that he’s sleeping on the floor and living on fast food because he doesn’t have basic kitchen supplies.

As an athlete, I want you to think like this when evaluating your exercise menus and decisions about loading parameters. I want you to stop behaving as if you’ve got an unlimited budget, because you don’t. Your resources (which I define as time, energy, knowledge, orthopedic status, and money, among other things) are limited, and must be allocated toward the things that provide the most bang for the buck.

Over the past several months, I’ve heard a few different prominent (I never quite know what to label these folks) “strength/fitness authorities” state their opinion that Get-Ups (often known as “Turkish Get-Ups”) as the “best” exercise that anyone can do.

Now I’ll allow for the inherent flaws that these “best” type of questions all possess, but that aside, how can you honestly prescribe the Get Up as the best exercise for any large group of trainees?

Although I do like the minimal equipment requirements and the mobility/stability benefits, the Get Up is a high-skill, usually low-load (with some exceptions certainly) movement that does little to promote or enhance strength, power, or lean body mass.

I certainly see the benefits of this movement from a physical therapy perspective, but I have a tough time appreciating the value from a “bigger, faster, stronger” point of view. So, returning to the premise of “compared to what?” please permit me to compare this with the barbell hip thrust – a movement that seems to generate reams of controversy for reasons that continue to elude me.

Like Get Ups, Hip Thrusts also require minimal equipment, but unlike Get Ups, Hip Thrusts require very little skill and require almost nothing in terms of setting up or psyching up.

In other words, Hip Thrusts are very low cost (see point #2 below), and provide enormously safe and effective strength and power benefits to the posterior chain – a group of muscles that are pivotal to both athletic performance and everyday life, not to mention aesthetics.

Again, I don’t deny that Get Ups have value for certain people at certain points in their development, but to say that they’re the “best” exercise for general trainees, compared to dozens of demonstrably better movements that have stood the test of time, is baffling and maddening.

The next time you find yourself doing a particular exercise or loading pattern, ask yourself if it’s truly the best use of your time and energy for that moment. If the answer is “no,” make the necessary changes right away.


2 thoughts on “3 Questions For Better Workouts (T-Nation article)

  1. When I read this I think of another post, posted not long ago: “New Research: Crossfit-based high intensity power training improves maximal aerobic fitness and body composition”.

    Crossfit increases maximal aerobic fitness. Sure, but compared to what?

  2. Yes Carl, spot on. That’s also one of the points in the discussion in the article: Yes it works – but is it worth the risk of injuries etc. Hopefully more studies and especially comparative studies about CF will be made to help us answer these questions in the future. – Ditte

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