Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Ian King

Last Wednesday I attended a lecture by Ian King on Athletic Preperation Strategies for Elite Athletes given by one of the worlds best strength and conditioning coaches Ian King. Now Ian King is not a name that you may not have not necessarily heard. He isn’t quite as media friendly as a lot of other “expert” coaches as he more often then not speaks very straight and tells it as it is. No fads just the combination of 30 years of experience with a number of world class athletes and Olympians means that this guys opinion should be taken seriously. I first stumbled upon his work over ten years ago and put it this way- it is now just as relevant as what it was then.

A lot of the time it takes a duration for an industry to catch up with good practice, however the fitness industry tends to struggle with one major issue “over marketing” and the use of loose facts to drive fads and products. To say the focus of the day was on critical thinking of the “getting results” process was an understatement. Indeed by lunchtime I had started to scratch my head- in some sort of matrix style conundrum it was if everything was not as it seems. Now I could cover a large amount of detail from micromanaging squat form, basic core activation, trigger point release techniques but fundamentally the ultimate question was based around how do you know what you are doing is working and effective.

When you have a track record of 30 years at the top preparing international athletes who have taken medals at World Championships and Olympics you sit up and take notice. Indeed if you were looking for a coaches coach ahead of an ace marketeer then Ian King is your man. He isn’t a fan of vibration plates, high training volumes, standard gyms and the education the current fitness industry provides. He is a fan of reviewing what you do constantly and maximizing your results with simplification before advancement- indeed equipment wise it highlights the point that barbells and dumbbells will do most things well.

Without giving the whole talk away (as there are too many points to raise for a blog post) I will highlight my top 5 take away points:

1. Doing things in the right way at the right time are important. Maintaining your professionalism and your own personal ethics are key to being a good coach.

2. Flexibility is more imporatant for trainees (not just the elite). It is the most underlooked assett of fitness as it is the most undersold (you can’t sell too many £2000 treadmills that enhance flexibility). Joking aside flexibility is important and adding more repetition and strength on to already tight movements is what most “exercise” programmes do. Take a step towards flexibility and mobility and prioritze it in your workouts if it is lacking in certain areas.

3. As a follow on from that Ian emphasised the main components of “physical fitness” as flexibility, endurance, strength and speed. Most programmes emhaise strength inspight of the necessity of the other factors of fitness, indeed most training centres are set up this way. Having a better understanding of what constitutes balanced development whatever your goals are is the key to progression.

4. Every push exercise should be followed by a pull to balance the body to avoid postural dominance. Not exactly a ground breaking revelation for the way I have always written programmes however I just wanted to mention it to put another nail in the “chest and triceps” split programme that still dominates a lot od the fitness industry. Old school rules is not always a good thing!

5. The internet is a minefield of misinformation- choose your sources of information well. A lot of information is now very brittle in if it is actually fact. Many fitnss pro’s relay this informaton back to their clients with a definitive spin on the issue without necessarily knowing thay what they are saying is true. You see this more than often in nutrition as well where a certain food is demonized or prioritzed without looking at the bigger picture. Information now has the ability to travel quickly though it does not necesssarily this information is right- apply a filter to this and you will be in a lot better place.

Overall it was a great day hosted by Graeme Marsh and the guys at The Foundry so thanks to them for organizing.

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