Michael writes about his views on training as a group and what makes a sucessful training hall.
“I read the following tweet by my sponsors, Deluxe Nutrition, from the 29th July:
Which do you prefer – exercising alone or with a gym buddy? #fitness
— Deluxe Nutrition (@DeluxeFuel) July 29, 2014
It got me thinking. It is well documented by many in the strength and fitness industry that training with a group or partner can provide a much better platform for motivation and progress. American weightlifter Donny Shankle wrote a great piece recently on why training in a group is king. This was written from an Olympic Weightlifting perspective, but it definitely still stands for Powerlifting and other strength sports (Shankle 2014):
“One of the things I have stressed in this book is how important it is to train in a group setting with other weightlifters who have the same goals as you. Goals like standing on top of the podium, calling yourself a champion and leaving competition with medals. During one email exchange this lifter said:
‘Donny it can’t be as easy as just go and train in a group can it?’
‘Yes’, was my response. ‘That’s really all it takes.’
Take any weightlifter who is in a rut training on his own and change his surroundings. Put him in a group of like-minded champions and I guarantee you his numbers will improve within a week if not sooner.”
Of course, this is completely subjective and relative to Donny as it is obviously something he’s passionate about. Although, one could argue that there are plenty of athletes who make significant progress training alone. Big names who spring to mind in Powerlifting are Mike Tuchscherer & Blaine Sumner and I know there are plenty of Olympic weightlifters that do the same, not to mention most recreational trainees. Sometimes lone training is required, even for me. I’m aware not everyone wants to become a “champion” either. However, what I would like to discuss today is the essence of a training hall and what makes these facilities (and the people in them) the best training group that you could wish for.
Homage to The Aberdeen ‘Sweat Hut’ (King’s Pavilion Training Hall)
Personally, I have trained at the ‘Sweat Hut’ for three years since the formation of the Aberdeen University Weightlifting Club. There’s nothing quite like it. It is hard to convey this to people who just don’t know. It holds a specific unique atmosphere you just don’t get elsewhere.
Walking into the Sweat Hut (see Figure 1 above) immediately conjures up connotations of ambition, intensity, passion and even festivity. This is only for a number of fleeting seconds when you then realise these aren’t just overtones – it is reality. It’s busy, hot and loud – but welcoming. Painting the detailed scene – music slams out of the speakers like the bars to the ground, trainees struggle through sets, others chalk up preparing for their next one, in a corner technique is discussed and in a group someone shares their stories from the weekend before it is time to go again. Because after all, it’s not just about the sets. It is also a social event, where we come to have fun and share a common interest we all have.
This is what defines any training hall, and it is not overly dramatic because this is what you will find. Critically, this is what produces results – a succinct synergy of controlled aggression, constructiveness and friendly socialising.
One of the biggest factors in any progress I’ve had in powerlifting has been down to this hugely positive group training atmosphere here. This is not to mention the many close friendships I have formed here. One of the main goals of the AUWC (that it certainly satisfies) is that:
“…it predominantly aims to gather like-minded people in one place to empower each other to excel more than we would by ourselves. It aims to greatly surpass the reasons for training yourself or with a partner through the use of sound training methodology, a positive and intense atmosphere, practical programming and correct technique on specific exercises.”
Famous training halls for strength sports include:
- The Chinese Weightlifting training facilities – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqk_6B2oX54
- The Russian Weightlifting training facilities – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeVdTm1Aksc&list=UUCc6Qk94Pxc3C-ls7QEdLJQ
- Russian Powerlifting facilities – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sd8Tzt5VS1w
These are obviously elite athletes in these facilities but the same facilities should be sought out for any aspiring athletes and for most strength and conditioning training for sports. It is the positive and constructive atmosphere that forces you to excel. So, without hesitation, in my opinion, I would say group training trumps training alone. I’m sure most of those who train in this fashion would agree with me.
The problem is that most gyms miss the point, it is not about how cutting edge you can make the facility but about building a community. It’s so damn simple – a couple of barbells, some platforms/power cages, some dumbbells. Add in some dedicated and knowledgeable lifters (who will come if the gym is suitable) and you provide all the ingredients for one of the biggest catalysts for progress.
Visiting gyms back home in Glasgow, this point really hit home (pardon the pun). These gyms with their air conditioning, spotless floors, lack of barbells/dumbbells & focus on cables, machines and big screen TV’s make me want to not do any work – to sweat, to struggle or to make any noise whatsoever. I believe they certainly don’t help us overcome our societal problems of obesity and the like, which they are partly, by default, there to provide for.
Of course, I understand it though. I understand that it is ‘health and safety’ that permits most of the above and not everyone has the same goals as me. I also believe that many would be intimidated in a group training hall environment and these generic gyms apply to the masses. However, this is unnecessary and usually unfounded.
The crux of this article here is that a gym should obviously not be for show but for function – this applies to strength and conditioning for recreation or any sport. Those who are serious in their goals generally seek out specific performance/underground gyms. But, should they need to? Can’t we all achieve our goals without having to sift through pages of Google? In conclusion, from my position, I guess I cannot advise solutions to this but please do not settle for these generic facilities; seek out the right gym, suitable coach and training partners or group. I know it has made the difference for me.”