Workout of the Day

Right vs... Righter?


I want to take a moment to dispel the myth that there’s a right way to do fitness.
Now, before things get too crazy, let me clarify: the real crux of this isn’t the word “right,” it’s that pesky little article, “a” -- it changes everything. Saying that there is a right way to do fitness implies that there is only one right way, and all other ways are wrong. And while I’m certainly not going to tell you that there are no right (or wrong) ways to do fitness, I can’t get behind the idea of there being only one road that leads to fitness. I’m sure some coaches would disagree with me, but I’m also sure that these same coaches would be the ones claiming know the right way, standing as gatekeepers to this precious gem of knowledge and spreading fear and panic about the dangers of all the other ways.

Let’s step back for a moment. There is no one right way to do fitness, but there are more and less right ways (I like to stick with the words “better” and “worse” here). This applies to specific movements, training programs, methodologies, etc. There is no right or wrong way to squat, but there are certainly better and worse ways. There is no right or wrong way to train for a weightlifting competition or a triathlon, but there are better and worse ways. You get the idea.

The next logical question, then, is how do we tell the difference? The good news is that it’s not all unicorn dust and fairy tales -- we’ve got quite a bit of experience, observation, and science on our side to steer us in a better direction; but the bad news is there is no simple and definitive answer handed down to us from the fitness gods.
I like to defer to a straightforward 3-question litmus test when I’m looking at the “betterness” or “rightness” of movement, programming, recovery, or any other fitness-related thing.

1) Does it accomplish the task?

If your deadlift form doesn’t lend itself to taking the bar from the floor to the hips, then I’d venture to say it doesn’t even deserve a place on the shelf of “fitness things that could be right.” The first question you have to ask is whether you’re actually accomplishing the task. When we’re talking about deadlift or pull-up form, this question is pretty easy to answer. When we start getting into training protocols, methodologies, whatever, it gets a little hairier. Have a definitive task/goal in mind, and make sure that the task is actually being accomplished.

2) Is it safe?

Talk of safety tends to bring dogmatism to the fore. People have very strong feelings about what’s safe and what’s not, and the next thing you know grown-ass adults are shouting and crying about lordosis and external rotation and squat cycles. It’s weird. The best we can do is look at evidence, draw on experience, and do our best to keep our head out of the ego-driven side of things. We’ve got a pretty good idea of some general movement patterns that are and aren’t safe, but what may be safe for one person may not be safe for someone else with a different body type. It’s important, also, to recognize that safety is both a short-term and long-term venture. While something may not be hurting you at this moment, it can be whittling away at you and setting you up for injury or burnout down the road.

3) Is it efficient?

Efficiency often gets overlooked in fitness. We assume that because something works, it must be the right way, end of story. The problem is, lots of things work, but some things work much better than others. Let’s take rowing for example: there are a million different ways to pull the handle back and forth on an erg, but there are ways that will allow you to sustain that movement at a faster pace for longer, and there are ways that will leave you tired out in minutes with a cranky low back. Or training in general: there are plenty of ways to get stronger, faster, and more enduring, but there are some ways that will take 4 hours in the gym per week, and there are other ways that will take 14 hours in the gym per week. That’s a pretty bad ROI if you ask me.

This vision of rightness helps us stay out of dogma and brings our mindset into one that’s ready to learn and grow. Like anything good, this approach is much harder than deciding what you feel is right and sticking to it adamantly. It requires some humility, thought, and frequent effort. It means accepting that your way may not be the only way, or even the best way.
But what the hell are we doing if we’re not trying to get better?

- Preston Sprimont


  • Sumo deadlift - 1,1,1,1,1

  • Sled sprint - 4x100’ (AHAP)