Richards: Focus on basics for better results (column) |

Richards: Focus on basics for better results (column)

Ryan Richards
Make It Count

One of the hallmarks of excellence for professional development is continued growth and understanding.

Last weekend, I attended the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Rocky Mountain Regional Conference with the excitement to gain knowledge of a new concept or idea. The problem is, fitness conferences rarely offer more insight than a few nuggets of gold. After all, great organizations such as the NSCA are businesses that need to sell credentials and empty seats at conferences to keep the lights on. The reality is, though, there’s nothing new about the basic tenets of fitness development.

The North American fitness business generated over 80 billion U.S. dollars in revenue in 2017, according to the website This is discouraging news from the perspective of simplicity; the overall theme of fitness acquisition isn’t complicated, yet we’ve certainly left the average consumer in the dark with vague ideas, and expensive snake oil that isn’t treating your ailments. As I disclose the basic principles of fitness, be forewarned that simplicity isn’t necessarily easy.

Support Yourself

First, understand that you’re an intricate system that breathes, eats, walks, thinks, adapts and interplays with the environment around it. Your body plays general, and sometimes specific roles to produce outcomes. Train the entire system instead of individual sub-parts of a larger organization. Stick to the basic fundamental human movements that when performed deliver necessary outcomes.

For example, squatting gets you out of a chair and moving through time and space. All of the muscles of the lower extremity participate. Pushing a spring on a Pilates reformer will strengthen specific muscles, but it doesn’t demand engagement from the entire system to participate in the outcome. The basic human movements are squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, bending, walking and running. There are other considerations such as twisting and jumping, but consider the former examples as a starting point.

A note of caution: If you have to use a machine or expensive gadget to exercise, then it’s probably not going to create authentic fitness.

Machines and other devices that you sit on fail to deliver genuine fitness because the equipment supports your structure — the exact opposite of what needs to happen. We must be able to support our own bodies because nothing else will when it counts. How could you develop integrity and balance if a leg press is offering all of the requisite stability needed for you? The seat is literally suspending you in place, negating the need for your postural muscles (as a system) to maintain your position and control. Therefore, train using external resistance (if needed) that allows natural freedom of movement. Great concepts and tools include but aren’t limited to bodyweight calisthenics, yoga, barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, ropes and bands.

Fitness is ultimately developed through progressive overload. Simply, we should endure more miles, lift heavier weights, perform more repetitions or engage in more challenging positions over time. The best way to prepare for a marathon is to progressively run longer distances. The simplest method for increasing strength is to lift an external resistance for five repetitions. Add weight to the bar next week. Rinse and repeat. Regardless of the goal, always strive to increase the difficulty of the task at hand.

As far as goals, weight loss is the priority for most recreational trainees. Fat loss happens in the kitchen. This is painfully true. My goodness, this is very difficult for so many of us though. It’s nasty simple, but it’s unpleasant to go to bed hungry. Whether you fast daily, eat three squares, nibble on rabbit food or eat steak every night, you must find straightforward ways to eat less food.

This past weekend’s conference was encouraging. The message that nothing’s new, and the NSCA is making the same argument year-after-year. This is great news because the basics deliver results every time, and it’s good to hear leaders of the industry agreeing with my sentiments.

Ryan Richards is a fitness professional who has been keeping the Vail Valley strong for over a decade. You can find him at or 970-401-0720.

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