"Arton, can you pass me a needle and thread?"
 "Cos I'm ripped." 

Yesterday I went to the gym for the first time ever with my younger brother who wanted me to show him the ropes. He wants his joke (above) to be true.

It was a fascinating experience taking one of my nearest and dearest through a gym induction given what I do. I have an extensive history in fitness and sport and now my focus has shifted towards performance, usually the aspect that fitness and sports trainings don't touch on.

My brother has an interest loves football like I do, so wants to continually be better at that and also now has an interest in getting leaner and more muscular. He wants to be ripped.

He's not alone. Most people wouldn't mind a few less wobbly bits, to look better naked and to minimise the health risks that arise with high levels of bodyfat. Most people who play sports would like to be better too.

The gym has been sold to us as THE answer. 

It certainly delivers on the fitness and body composition front. Resistance exercise, cardiovascular workouts and healthy eating will deliver a leaner, more muscular frame.

It will also help create stronger muscles with greater endurance capacity. This stuff can certainly help in sport.

But the gym doesn't convincingly deliver - I feel a little ripped off from all the work I've put in there down the years - in a few places that it infers that it will in sports:

  • Increased speed. Even with programmes tailored towards speed development using explosive, compound activities, I've not came across many people in their adult lives who get faster as a result of gym work. Even those I know that have developed more power in themselves to improve their vertical jumps have seen very little or no improvement in their speed over short distances which is paramount in most sports.
  • Improved agility. Developing explosive strength should hold the key to becoming more agile as changes of direction require force and quick changes of direction require the quick application of force to decelerate and reaccelerate us. Again, I cannot recall an adult that became more agile than they were as a youth through gym training through anything other than increased muscular endurance that doesn't make any single change of direction faster but can make a collection of them faster. As useful as improved endurance is, this doesn't help athletes looking to improve agility in the first instant.
  • Improved mobility. In my 16 years of training, I have never seen anybody become more mobile through gym training. Sitting in a loaded squat doesn't make your squatting movement better. Stiff leg deadlifts don't improve forward bending. Static stretching routines, pre and post workout, don't have lasting effects on mobility. Gym training, if anything, stiffens people up.

So, there I was, standing with my brother thinking of how to give him what he wanted - a leaner more muscular body and one that REALLY delivers the sports performance improvements many of us want when we go to the gym.

What I did and what I'm doing I'll write about next time. If you want to make sure you catch the article, subscribe using the box to the bottom right of the page.


Arton "More ripped off than ripped" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Injury Rehab and Performance, Harley Street, London W1