The Balance

Jun 22, 2022


This article was originally posted on the site in 2012, but we are posting it again as a StrengthCoach Classic to serve as a refresher and so newer members can see it.


By now, we all know about the 10,000 hours. We've heard about it over and over. If you want to be an expert, you need to put in your 10,000 hours. The number may not be exact, but you get the point. Experience matters.

In our MBSC staff meeting the other day, the topic of how to accumulate the 10,000 hours came up.

Many on my staff think that a young crop of strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers have either inadvertently or intentionally skipped over a step. Many of our “experts” in the fields of strength and conditioning and personal training are not yet thirty and haven't trained 100's of clients or put in thousands of hour. In truth, many are frauds, writing about things they have never really done or have done on a small scale. These types of coaches have placed the cart firmly in front of the horse and my crop of bright, young, strength and conditioning coaches knows it.  Alwyn Cosgrove and Jason Ferruggia wrote about this years in go in one of my favorite articles, The Business.

However, the thoughts above about 10,000 hours do provoke a question or maybe two questions. Hence, the title of this post.

What is the balance or makeup of the 10,000 hours? In some of my recent talks, I have made a point of saying that the 10,000 hours must be a mixture of practical experience and educational experience.  Practical experience might be further divided between training others and, training yourself?

The question remains, what is the perfect mixture? I will not pretend to know, only to further explore the thought.

Is it 8000 hours in the training trenches and 2000 hours of reading books, watching DVD's, and reading blogs? Or is it 8000 hours of reading, DVD's, and blogs and 2000 hours of training. Both are very different and would produce very different results and potentially a different kind of expert.

The first option might produce a great coach with less “book smarts” while option two might produce a book smart person with limited practical experience. Another thought relates to the value of hours training. Are hours spent doing the same things poorly over and over defined as practice or insanity? Is 8000 hours of the same program the definition of insanity? Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting the result to change.

I go back to a quote from Martin Rooney in a Perform Better seminar lecture. To paraphrase; first read everything you can, then write your impressions of what you have read, lastly add your own written thoughts. I believe in his talk Martin was describing a progression of years, not weeks or months.

I think initially the 10,000 hours is weighted heavily towards the reading, studying, and self-training side. You must be a student before a practitioner and you should probably practice what you intend to preach before you ever preach it.  It would be like trying to teach math without being able to add or subtract. Next, you should practice your craft, keeping careful notes of what you read and observe. Last, you begin to add your own thoughts. You in effect become a teacher.

The progression of  accumulating 10,000 hours toward becoming an expert might look something like this:

Student/ Lifter- 100%

Practitioner/ Writer- 80-20

Practitioner/ Teacher- 80-20

I guess the key for me is that I am encouraging my staff not to get stuck only in the practitioner role and realize that they have potential to become great teachers in the worlds of strength and conditioning and personal training.

However, at the same time I must caution them not to become one of the internet frauds that trolls the Facebook world posting contrarian articles and tossing barbs at those they perceive to be above them to impress those they perceive to be below them. The key as the title says is the balance. I firmly believe that we must always be active practitioners to be true experts.

Stopping for any length of time is the beginning of the end for most professionals. This is why I train clients and athletes every day. I not only need to know the latest information but must put that information into daily practice. Then and only then should I write about what I “know”.