Sean Waxman is a former National level Olympic Weightlifter and highly regarded coach. He spent nearly a decade of his life immersed as an athlete in the world of Olympic Weightlifting under the direction and guidance of USAW Hall of Fame Coach Bob Takano. Sean was one of the top Olympic Weightlifters in the country from 1995-2001, earning him a spot on the National Team, a National medal, and five California state championships.
Here are my 5 questions with Sean and his answers:
1) In devising regimens you have been known to take competitive athletes back to rudimentary exercises, reintroducing basic movements such as somersaults into your client’s program. Explain why this is necessary.
Many times athletes, especially young athletes, spend too much time playing and practicing their sport (developing specific sport skills) and too little time training for their sport developing specific athletic attributes (i.e. strength, power, flexibility, etc.). They become highly skilled in the movement patterns required for their sport, but overall they have become poor athletes.
By introducing new movement patterns such as basic barbell exercises and gymnastic movements, the athlete is exposed to different movement patterns thereby raising their developmental ceiling. An athlete is better served, especially in the beginning of their career, spending at least as much time preparing their body for sport than actually playing their sport. This will assure that the athlete’s body will be properly prepared to handle the rigors of intense competition without breaking down due to overuse injuries.
2) You have been one of the pioneers in bringing multi-joint exercises back to the forefront through your various publications. In general, there has been a departure from the dictum of isolated movements and fitness practitioners across the board are incorporating multi-joint movements back into their overall programs. Why has the paradigm shifted back to exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups rather than specialized training that single out particular muscle groups?
It is quite simple, multi-joint exercises are the most effective tools to elicit change in the body. I do agree that there has been a turn back to multi-joint movements. Although, calling a bodyweight squat on a Bosu ball a multi-joint exercise is like calling fast food fine dining. The fitness world has turned proper training that follows the laws of biomechanics and muscle physiology into some form of entertainment that affects the body on only a superficial level.
Because of this “paradigm shift” many in the worlds of fitness & strength and conditioning have heard the message of multi-joint movements and have gravitated towards it. Unfortunately, many of the most visible leaders of this movement are incompetent, ignorant, misinformed or just out to promote themselves without any regard as to the quality of their information. In many cases, these people/organizations have taken one small part of the training paradigm and formed their own training system around it. For example, if I hear one more person talk to me about core training, I am going to go postal.
There is an entire industry that revolves around core training. “Functional” core strength is a byproduct of properly executing squatting, pulling, overhead lifting and the Olympic lifts — not lying on a freaking ball and doing crunches. What function does that serve? Proper training is about the “big rocks”. If you want to fill a glass with rocks, you put the big rocks in first, then the little rocks then the sand. In training, the big rocks are the exercises that elicit the best physiological response; as mentioned earlier: squatting, pulling, overhead lifting and the Olympic lifts all done while standing on the floor with a barbell and sometimes dumbbells.
3) You are recognized as the “go-to guy” when it comes to Olympic lifts. What is one piece of knowledge that you can pass along from your expertise regarding this style of training that could benefit every athlete?
Regardless of how many certifications or letters a person has after their name, if they tell you weighted jumps, Vertimax or any other circus act provides the same benefits as the Olympic lifts, they are misinforming you. These movements do not come close to providing the benefits the Olympic lifts do. The problem is that often the people telling you that you don’t need the Olympic lifts have either never used them properly in their own training or are out to promote there own new “revolutionary” training method. I guarantee you anybody that has trained using the Olympic lifts, WITH GOOD TECHNIQUE, has dramatically improved their ability to produce and absorb force.
4) Looking at fitness and health across its broad spectrum, if you had the power to make one profound change to the landscape – something that you view as fundamentally wrong in its current state – what would it be and why?
Because of the ever-increasing demand for trainers and strength coaches, certification has become a cottage industry. This is where the big money is. Because of this, there are very few quality standards provided with a certification. This puts many unqualified people into circulation. At the very least before you hand somebody a license to take somebody’s health and well being in their hands, make sure they know how to perform and teach you exercises properly. I don’t think that is too much to ask for. Exercise is a powerful stimulus. If used correctly it can provide innumerable benefits, however if used improperly — especially on an athlete — it can act as an impediment for reaching one’s full athletic potential.
When somebody is certified as a trainer or coach the assumption is they are competent and well versed in the skills it takes to make you a better athlete. Right now in the industry’s current state that is not the case in the worlds of fitness & strength and conditioning.
5) In contrast to the previous question, what is something that excites you about the future of fitness – i.e. something that you view as fundamentally correct and heading in the right direction in its current state?
What excites me in fitness is the general acceptance of exercise as one of, if not the most, powerful components to one’s well being, a kind of cure all. Even the most mainstream media outlets report on the wonders of exercise. If this trend continues and is championed by the correct people/organizations, exercise, especially exercise done with free weights, can affect society on a scale as large as the personal computer has. For example, two out of the top four killers of Americans are currently cardiovascular disease and adult-onset diabetes. These are “lifestyle” diseases caused predominantly by inactivity. Exercise would all but eradicate these ailments. The six top-selling medications: Pfizer’s cholesterol pill LIPITOR, Bristol-Myers Squibb blood thinner that treats heart disease PLAVIX, AstraZeneca’s NEXIUM which treats heartburn, GlaxoSmithKline’s ADVAIR which treats Asthma, Merck ‘s ZOCOR which treats high cholesterol and Pfizer’s NORVASC which treats high blood pressure… these drugs would no longer be consumed at their current rate. That could mean over forty billion dollars less in the pockets of the drug companies. If there were less demand for these drugs as well as for all the cottage industries created around treating these conditions, it would force the companies that provide health care to dramatically lower the cost to the consumer. It would give some power back to the people and take it away from the companies for whom keeping American people sick is business as usual.
I believe that this is but one way exercise could impact society. I also believe that we have taken the first step towards making this paradigm shift, and this excites me!