No Substitutions

There is a restaurant in California that serves a mean burger and uncompromisingly refuses to change it in any way. No, we will not hold the bacon and no, there is no ketchup. This is how it is and you are going to like it, son.

No SubstitutionsThere is a particular kind of a whiny customer who never comes back because he wants to have it his way. He is never missed, as the place is always packed to the gills by those who are smart enough to trust the chef.

I venture the spoiled brat who leaves in a huff goes straight to his computer to “improve” some classic strength training program. Because he is smarter than Rif, Dan John, or Geoff Neupert. After all, didn’t his momma tell him he was the number one every day of his life (while daddy powerlessly nodded)?

To make it worse, instead of quietly disfiguring the classic program in the privacy of his parents’ home, he has the audacity to go the Internet and bug the author. “Dan, can I do two lifts per workout on your one-lift-a-day program?”

Over forty years ago, Arkady Vorobyev—Olympic champion in weightlifting, scientist, and coach extraordinaire—quoted a famous Russian proverb in one of his books and it rings even more true today: “Eggs do not teach the chicken.”

Arkady Vorobyev
Arkady Vorobyev: “Eggs do not teach the chicken.”

Ironically, experienced coaches have the sense not to mess with their colleagues’ plans. When Cole Summers, today SFG Team Leader, took up kettlebell training, he did not try to reinvent the wheel. Even though, being Team Canada strength coach for several sports, he was more than qualified to do so. He got started on the ETK Rite of Passage—and within months pressed a kettlebell weighing more than 100 pounds, at 59 years of age and bodyweight in the 180s.

Cole Summers
Cole Summers, SFG Team Leader, Team Canada Strength Coach

I have news for you, son. Being full of yourself for no reason whatsoever is the ticket to wasting your twenties and possibly thirties. In training and in other aspects of your life.

No Substitutions

Day-long StrongFirst Courses are taught by first-rate coaches.

Pavel Tsatsouline
Pavel Tsatsouline is the CEO of StrongFirst, Inc.

40 thoughts on “No Substitutions

  • I honestly must respectfully disagree. There is certainly something to be said of trusting your coach and/or instructor, there is a point where you must branch off on your own to truely grow. Honestly, if I went to a burger joint and they pulled that no subtractions/additions crap on me, I’d walk right out. Sorry, burger-flipper, this is America, Jack, and if I am paying my hard earned money for your food, you’ll make it the way I want it made!

  • It’s definitely a very valid point in general. Usually when someone asks something like “two lifts a day”, or “can I do curls instead of deadlifts in Starting Strength?”

    Still though, we sometimes see this taken too far. For instance, I generally use a training template of ‘power, strength, conditioning’ so perhaps swings, press, complex. However, I have found that if I say I’m doing swings, floor press and the tension complex I get asked why I’m bastardising the tension complex. Yes, I know that am, but if I’d written “a complex of KB clean, squat and press” then there’s no questioning it.

  • Makes a lot of sense. My trainer once told a new kid during dead lift night “before you continue on trying to tell us what you think is wrong with what were doing, the two guys on your right hold state and national records, the female on your left holds a state record. Now let’s hear your expertise”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Military Deployment Prep: A Program for Hardening the Soldier