Do I Need To Be in Shape Before Training? – Part I

The backwards Training Philosophy

Coach Izzy

It is often that I receive inquiries from folks excited about meeting me and looking forward to the prospects of finally achieving their fitness dreams. They have heard great stories from their friends and loved ones, they have seen the transformation, the results, and now, they too want the same makeover in their lives. And although their excitement is vibrant, the twinge of hesitation halts their full commitment. When I inquiry why the indecision in getting started, they finally open their vault of qualms, revealing an all too common question.

“I really want to start but… Do I need to be in shape before to seeing you?  I’m afraid I will not be able to keep up!”

This article was written with two purposes. One, to answer that question so you can put your concerns to rest and we can get started promptly. And two, to make an attempt to get to the root of a question that should not even be formulated. It is my goal to create awareness over the hollowness of such accepted idiosyncrasy, and in doing so, help you make better choices.

Let’s start with an analogy.

If you wanted to learn to swim, you would hire a swimming coach. I am certain sure you would wait to meet with your coach before attempting to get in the water. Why? Because proper swimming is a set of skills, and you know you do not have those skills. You also know that attempting to get in the water under such circumstances puts you at tremendous risk. .

You trust the swimming coach to help you develop the skills paramount to successful swimming, and to respect your health constraints and pace of learning. Attempting deep water without those skills is plain reckless. You would never call a swimming coach and say “Coach, I can’t swim and I want to hire you to learn, but I think I should attempt a couple of laps in the deep water to get ready for you.”

How does this analogy relate to the situation? In more way than you can imagine!

First and most important, and also highly ignored, is the fact that strength, in its functional expression, is A SKILL. Innate traits are a significant factor, that is true, but even the most genetically gifted individual will get nowhere without the proper guidance and strategies.

Just like it is the job of the swimming coach to asses your level of skill, and progress you from there, it is the job of the strength and conditioning coach to assess your current level of strength, generate the exercise prescription that will be suitable to your goals, deliver results, and prevent you from developing bad habits, poor motor skills, imbalances, and injury.

Perhaps you are stubborn and think you can learn on your own, and you don’t need coaching. All you need is to watch a few swimmers, watch some videos, and you will be all set. Sounds reasonable, right? It does… if you don’t understand or don’t have any type of coaching experience.

Bah, so what! What could happen?

At best, attempting to swim without experience or professional supervision will most likely result in incorrect motor patterns and habits you don’t even see. When your progress stalls and you finally hire a professional, be prepared to commit for many sessions. It is a lot more difficult to break poor habits developed through poor practice than to learn to acquire those skills from scratch. At worst, you put yourself at higher risk of drowning.

The same applies if you think you should get in shape before seeing a strength and conditioning coach. My experience has shown me that those who do so, reinforce poor motor habits, exacerbate inefficient postural patterns, and expose their bodies to undue risk. A classic example is those who thought they could learn competitive Olympic Weightlifting from watching videos and reading articles versus novices who sought coaching from the beginning. A good beginner can perform the Olympic Lifts with competency in about six sessions under proper coaching. A lifter with poor habits requires about twenty or more sessions to break the bad habits and replace them with the proper technique.

Let’s be honest. You trust and hire professionals for a reason. They are more qualified than you at completing tasks -that you may not even understand- with accuracy and efficiency. You would not attempt to interfere or do their job because you know is beyond our scope of expertise. So why do most people think they can do the job of the qualified fitness or strength professional? A job that they have absolutely no idea what entails? That some outside the field think they are qualified does not make it so.

Click HERE  for the next installment and conclusion.

About The Author


Coach Izzy has been part of the Strength and Conditioning field for over 25 years. He speaks of the advantages of self-sufficiency and the drawbacks of relying on the liner approaches the health world seems fond of.