Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Let the children play!

Directional concerns with the training of the young athlete

During a recent visit to Fiji I took the opportunity to study the conditions in which athletes are developed. Having been there before, and having been raised in a similar environment, I had certain expectations. The question was had things changed, had the influences of western world habits and trends risen and changed things.

My interest in training of the young athlete is personal and professional. As a parent it’s pertinent. As a coach, I spend the first two decades focusing on the peak years of sports performance, generally speaking 16 to 36 years of age. During the last decade and a half, I have sought to gain extensive experience in the practical application of training the young athlete, with the view to developed real world contributions to the multi-year periodization models I had developed during the prior decades. Additionally, I now also have a responsibility for the athletes who I trained during the 1980s and 1990s who now face the challenges of both aging and damage from sport at the elite level during their younger adult years. To add to this, they also bring their children to me, so my recent (last 15 years) focus on young training is serving all well.
I have a number of concerns about the direction of young training, and some key ones below:
  1. The over structuring of young sports training in general.
  2. The application of ‘strength and conditioning’ to the young athlete
  3. The perceived correlation between equipment and development of the young athlete
  4. The Western lifestyle impact on athletic development 
For the purposes of this discuss I refer to the ages of 0-16 yrs as ‘young athlete’. I was able to apply my theories in relation to these concerns in my review of contemporary training habits in the island of Fiji.

To further explain my concerns, I expand in the following:

1. The over structuring of young sports training in general
I’m not the first to raise this concern, and I won’t be the last – unless things change globally, which I am not optimistic about. Essentially, in a world where children ‘play’ time is potentially reduced on prior generations, where their play time is less play and more electronic interaction, I believe what little play time available should be used to develop the general athletic skills needed to optimize long term athlete potential. Nothing new about this, I appreciate, and most would agree. Where the paths diverge is how the sports training is conducted. Where adult coaches speak a lot, where adult concepts and emotions dominate, where winning is the most important things, where a lot of whistles are blown, where kids are taught structure (tactics) before technique, where ‘fitness’ training equals (or in some cases dominates) technical training – this is the world of young sports training I see dominate.

My solution? Less structure, less adult involvement, more skill and fun based activity. Again, this is nothing new. Books have been written on this subject, such as the excellent book ‘Just Let the Children Play’ by Bob Bigelow. For whatever reason, it’s for the most part lip service around the world. The children are not being allowed to play.

Except in the places like islands in the Pacific Ocean. I am happy to report the children do still play. They play more than they do in the more developed western world. And this is good!

In my opinion it explains why the first thing you see when you arrive in the terminal at Nadi – in a poster over the bag carousel, and the last thing you see at departure at the International terminal in Nadi – in a billboard in the parking lot – is this boast – more rugby champions per capita are developed in Fiji than in any other country.

And I believe that is for the most part due to the way the kids play!\

2. The application of ‘strength and conditioning’ to the young athlete

Based on my observations, since about 1980 there has been a progressive downward movement in age as to who has formal ‘strength and conditioning’ programs provided. As of now, it is not uncommon for children as young as 10 years of age to be exposed to formal ‘‘strength and conditioning programs. I see two main challenges with this.

The first one is the imbalance of time and effort dedicated to the athletic qualities – which, based on Tudor Bump’s influence, I indentify as technical, tactical, physical and psychological. In essence, I see too many young athletes being exposed to non-specific physical development programs and training who are seriously lacking in technical and tactical development. What we are creating, in my opinion, is a generation of athletes who cannot pass, kick or catch a ball very well, but are really ‘strong and conditioned’. To be more accurate they look like they are. This early imbalance, again in my opinion, will lead to inability for the athlete to fulfil their potential in the long term.

The second concern I have is with the application of training programs that have significant flaws in them. This simply means the young athletes have more years on inappropriate physical training programs, and as a result develop injuries and undergo surgery earlier than their predecessors. I am confident this would be statistically supported in any appropriate survey or research. One day, there will be a greater awareness and acceptance of the flaws that have existed in these training programs, and ideally the damaging content will be reduced, if not eliminated. However this optimism may take many years if not decades to be realized, at best.

3. The perceived correlation between equipment and development of the young athlete

There is a perception in our marketing driven western world sporting environment that you need not only equipment, but you need the latest equipment. For those exposed to it, his paradigm leaves those without a lot of equipment or not the latest equipment with a sense of inadequacy, and those with both a false sense of confidence. However for those not exposed to it, it has no relevance or impact.

Essentially kids need very little if any equipment to create play. I have seen many young athletes playing on the street with a crushed soft drink can, or in a park or in a village with an old volleyball, soccer ball or rugby ball.

In Fiji equipment is scare. In most Pacific island equipment is scarce. Yet Fiji still have reason to claim they produce more rugby stars per capita than any other country. And the Pacific Island continue to be a rich provider of athlete talent for many sports who recruit them from the islands.

I visited the classrooms of a primary school in Fiji recently, with a group doing volunteer work, and noted the humble resources they had available. I was keen to learn the correlation between this ‘disadvantages’ as we would perceive it in our developed countries, with their educational development. Without proclaiming to be an educational expert, I informally took the pulse of these kids in the basics of readying, writing and arithmetic (see the video below – note it's rough and its sideways - unbeknown to me the kids were filming it!) I started out by giving them my Phone to play with and it was obvious the overwhelming majority didn’t know what it was. I was very happy with what I heard and saw. I don’t believe they were ‘disadvantaged’ as much as we may have believed because of our skewed reliance on resources and equipment.

4. The Western lifestyle impact on athletic development

In countries devoid of TV and other electronic devices, kids are forced to play. In countries devoid of heavy western eating influences, the kids eat more the traditional diets. Although not as traditional as the generations before them, anything is better than a diet of fast foods that kids in Western countries get exposed to.

During the last few decades the kids in the Pacific islands have been devoid of TV and other electronic devices, and most had not seen or heard of McDonalds. Inevitably this will change, and the pool of talent will dry up. There will come a time when we need to take this optimal lifestyle more seriously to ensure we optimally develop the young athlete.


Just as the American dentist Weston-Price concluded in his early 1900’s study of traditional nutrition, where he concluded that shifting to westernized nutrition was a step backwards as relates to health, I believe that as we shift from more traditional play based lifestyles for our young athletes, the future athletic potential is also diminished. Whilst it may not be possible or even appropriate to completely turn back the clock, I believe any parents and or coaches interested in optimizing the long term athletic ability of the young athlete can and should take some lessons from the experiences shared by the children in more traditional less-westernized cultures, such as the Pacific Islands.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Terrorism in Boston

Watching the vision of today’s bomb explosions near the finish line at the Boston marathon brought back memories of my own experiences of terrorism (1) in Boston. Now I don’t suggest it was in the same league as the victims around today’s blast, however it was still, in my opinion - terrorism. Act intended to cause fear. It was, in my opinion, intended to give me a clear message – don’t come back to Boston. It didn’t work. I have been back to Boston nearly every year since. It did work on others though. Let me tell you my story.

It was 1999 and before I left for a seminar tour of the US I received an email from a person who I had never heard of before, despite my 19 years in coaching at that time and the 10 prior years travelling to, studying, and meeting with as many leading US strength coaches as I could. He seemed very excited about my impending visit, and even invited me to visit his facility when I was in Boston. My tight travel schedule prevented me from taking up this offer; however this ‘coach’ did introduce himself to me at the start of the seminar in his home town of Boston.

All seemed normal. Up until about one third of the way through the day, when I spotted a gathering of people in the middle of the presentation room (actually a squash court) during a break. All bar one of the people in this highly visible impromptu yet serious meeting did not return the seminar, constituting my first and only mass walk-out during a seminar.

I’m not sure if the ‘sole survivor’ of this group was an independent thinker, or left to report on the remainder of the day!

Now I was to learn that later that apparently the leader of this group, my new found want-to-be Boston buddy, has called the meeting and due to his desire to ‘protect’ his people form my terrible content and terrible delivery, had ushered them to safety!

That would be their prerogative, yet the subsequent events may tell a different story as to the motive of this mass walk-out.

Shortly after the event my host received a written communication that left her in tears, full of fear. The communication made it very clear how terrible the seminar was, the worst ever experienced by this ‘strength coach’. The content was really bad and the presenter equally bad.

What was I presenting? I was presenting the content of my releases from 1998, a collection of many of the concepts I had developed and refined in the prior 19 years of real world intense and high volume physical preparation coaching. Things like:

• Speed of movement and my three digit timing system
• Lines of movement
• Balancing the body based on my lines of movement concept
• Chin ups don’t balance out the bench press
• Loading is over-rated
• My unique unilateral bodyweight exercises
• That the aerobic base was a myth
• Static stretching before training
• Control drills conducted in the start of the strength workout to activate selected muscles
• And much more

Now I know this content was radical at that time, and I can bet you this ‘strength coach’ was doing none of this at that time, and thus stood to loose face with his local followers because this ‘visiting coach’ (myself) was teaching it totally different to what he was doing. I get that.

(I challenge my Boston friend to produce his 1999 and pre-years workouts – now that would be interesting stuff….)

But what I don’t get was what happened next. The communication then went on to outline all the retribution that would occur if my host dared to bring me back to Boston ever again. And that’s where it really became terrorism.

Now the story didn’t end here, and the following sheds further light on the motives of my

Boston ‘friend’. During the subsequent decade, from 1999 to 2009, he published extensively on some new trends in training, including:

• Speed of movement and my three digit timing system
• Lines of movement
• Balancing the body based on my lines of movement concept
• Chin ups don’t balance out the bench press
• Loading is over-rated
• My unique unilateral bodyweight exercises
• That the aerobic base was a myth
• Static stretching before training
• Control drills conducted in the start of the strength workout to activate selected muscles
• And much more

And not once did my name get mentioned in the way you would expect an ethical and creditable person would when publishing and teaching another persons original concepts.

So how did it all end up? Well, the person I call a terrorist got known as a leader in the methods I taught on that infamous day in Boston in 1999 due to his prolific publishing on these subjects, my host never worked with me again (in fact they quickly stopped communicating with me at all…). And me? I go back to Boston every year and do seminars…..Just like the Boston marathon will go on every year moving forward. Because we can’t control the actions of others, but we can control our response. Its okay to experience fear, but it’s not good enough to allow fear to change how you life your life. And despite my ‘Boston friend’ benefiting commercially and professionally from my original works after the damage he sought to cause myself and those who supported me that year, he has to live with his acts of terrorism….

(1) “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion “ - http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/terrorism (2)

(2) Yes, that’s inverted commas indicating a direct quote and after that is the reference – I know this has been discouraged by the US fitness industry ‘its okay to steal’. Brothers, but bear with my old-fashioned values…..

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lines of movement - the origin and intent of the concept

In 1998 I released a wide range of original, innovate training concepts developed during the prior 18 years of coaching, based on extensive personal professional experiences training large numbers of elite athletes. Many of these methods have gone on to shape how the world trains.

I have summarized many of these in the on-line course ‘KSI Level 1 – Legacy’, which was released for the first time about two years ago.

For example, I began my first public extensive teaching of the concept of lines of movement in 1998 with the following statement:

….To balance the athlete I work on a ratio of 1 to 1 of hip and quad dominant - in general. And I can assure you – most programs you’ll see are 2 to 1 – quad and hip.

That’s a concept I’m sure you’ll have never heard before because this is the first time I have spoken about it. (1)

The following shows a breakdown of the body into major muscle groups/lines of movement, and then into examples of exercises. It is what I call ‘the family trees of exercise’. Use this to assess balance in your exercise selection…. (2)
Now I am going to show you how I break the muscle groups up: (3)

Lower body:
Quad dominant
Hip dominant

Upper body:
Horizontal plane push
Horizontal plane pull
Vertical plane push
Vertical plane pull
These concepts are now used throughout the world. Ethical and well read authors and presenters reference and credit the origin.

Initially these concepts were referenced and credited accurately. For example, this was said about one concept, a concept I called ‘lines of movement’:

Before Ian popped up from Down Under, most coaches said to train all the muscles of the legs in one session and use the most efficient exercises. That means squatting and deadlifting on the same day. Problem — As effective as these big mass builders are, they’re also very fatiguing and really sap your energy levels. If you start your workout with squats, your deadlifts will suffer and vice versa.…

To help you understand how to divide and balance out your training, Ian came up with a list of major muscle groups that reflects their function:

Horizontal pulling (row)
Horizontal pushing (bench press)
Vertical pulling (chin-up)
Vertical pushing (shoulder press)
Hip dominant (deadlifts)
Quad dominant (squats)….

Ian has a few other categories for abs, lower back, calves, and arms, but the ones above are main muscle groups you need to worry about. Based on this list, you need to be doing vertical as well as horizontal pushing and you need to be doing the same number of sets for each and keep the rep ranges equal where appropriate.

Let me give you an example of how this list can help you. Before Ian provided this simple list, I did almost nothing but chin-up variations for back training. Sure, I did rows occasionally, but not very often as compared to chins. This was an imbalance. Now I do just as many sets of horizontal pulling as I do vertical pulling and it’s really helped my back development....(4)
To reinforce this point, here’s a program published in a popular men’s magazine in the US in 1997, about six months prior to the 1998 release of many of my concepts including lines of movement.

Stage 1: Wks 1-4 – The ‘bodybuilding’ phase (5)

A (Day 1)             B (Day 2)      (Day 3)        C (Day 4)           D (Day 5)        (Day 6)    (Day 7)

Incline Bar Press  Squat Off      Off               Bench Press       Hack Squats      Cardio      Rest day
DB Press              Leg Press                           Dips                   Lunge 
Pull-down            Romanian Deadlift             Seated C/Row   Leg Extension
Bent-over Row    Glut/Ham Raise                 Upright Row      Lying Leg Curl
DB Sh Press         Standing Calf Raise           O/head Tri Ext  Seated Calf Raise
                                                                       Barbell Curl
Hanging Leg Raise                                         Hanging Leg Raise
Crunch Abs (if not done on day 3)                Crunch Abs (if not done on day 3)
Oblique Crunch                                              Oblique Crunch

You will note the absence of many concepts that I released in 1998 in this program. e.g. lines of movement, uni-lateral bodwyweight exercises, abs first, control drills, pre-training stretching etc etc.

However in 2005 two ‘books’ were ‘published’ by two different and ‘effective’(6)  marketers, both of which ‘publications’ contained a wide range of my original ideas in the absence of referencing or credits (7). For example, both of these publications taught and used the concept of lines of movement without any referencing or credits (8). Both ‘authors’ were in seminars where I taught this concept in or around 1999 and or ordered my books and videos where I taught these as original concepts (9). So I conclude they knew the origin and simply choose to ignore it.

2005 formed a watershed year for my concepts, and since then I have seen a number of additional publications where the authors and or publishers have made no attempt to provide accurate credits or referencing, or at best a diluted one.

I believe that well-researched writers and teachers with integrity will apply acceptable professional guidelines when using the original works of others. Those who lack these two qualities don’t.
I watched this direction with interest. I raised these matters with a number of private organizations, professional bodies and publishers. Over time it appeared that values other than honest writings, ethical referencing and legally compliant copyright respect were not high on the priorities of these entities.

To the one particular staunch defender of this plagiarism – I share my belief that the willingness of these organizations to continue to associate with and endorse these individuals is not a reflection of the right of these individuals to carte blanche use of my intellectual property in the absence of professionally accepted standards of referencing and crediting – rather is it a reflection of the values of these entities, the implications of which will be judged by history.

I understand there is a market segment who belief that it doesn’t matter where the information comes from, as long as they get it. I respect their right to form any opinion they choose. However let me share mine position – those who lack the trait of honesty and long term application that would result in developing their own experiences to teach and sell do not understand the concepts, do no teach them accurately, have not used them long term in true practical application, and when either a new trend comes along or they feel it’s time to dump these concepts, will do so. Their motive to create short term personal and commercial gain by being the one to bring ‘new concepts’ to the market - I suggest this serves only themselves.

I also recognize that there may be some pain involved in me putting my hand up to correct this information. Those who entered to industry post 2000 and were first exposed to the un-referenced diluted versions may struggle with the idea that their source failed to teach the full picture. Some of the pain may even be deflected back to us.

None of this will change what the direction we are taking – to accurately and honestly teach my original concepts. To regain the legacy.

Despite the widespread teaching of my concepts by ‘authors’ such as this, or perhaps because of, the true intent and power of my concepts has not been put to use. The world is no better off. Sure a handful of new entrants to our industry have been given an impressive collection of information – but nothing really has changed. The reasons I created these concepts – to produce superior performances and reduced injuries – has not occurred.

This is disappointing but not totally surprising. I believe you will not serve humanity in the absence of a true deserve to serve. When the motive is to gain credit for new idea and short term cash flow, neither of these motives form what I call true intent, and therefore the original intent of the concepts falls short of their potential.

To address these issues, a few years ago I decided to collate my concepts and provide a summary of them in a way that included the history of why and how I developed them, and the most extensive explanation available as to how to use them. I called this the ‘KSI Level 1 – Legacy Course’. This is the first step in balancing the misinformation for self-serving purposes that has denied the world the opportunity to fully benefit from my original, innovative training concepts – concepts shaped, tested and proven by decades of practical application.

For the last two years this course has been available and undergone a long testing period. It began with a trial group that were virtually given the course, and even now, towards the end of the testing period, the price of the Legacy Course is only twice what many paid in the mid-2000’s for a document that was in essence a very poor copy of my How to Write / Get Buffed! TM and How to Teach books.

Perhaps over time, as more people gain access to the original content rather than the diluted plagiarized and/or unreferenced versions, the power of these concepts will come closer to fulfilling their potential in serving the world in optimizing performance and reducing injury.

Recently I was giving a lecture at a university in the US on the subject of ‘lines of movement’. I was given three hours to teach this concept. As I taught, it struck me that the content I was sharing would be so powerful for the world to gain an insight into where concepts such as this came from, why they were created, and their original and true intent in how to apply them.

To this effect, I have decided to make this three part seminar – Lines of Movement - available for order. You can order and watch this electronically delivered video by clicking on this link.


If you value honesty, if you value learning from the source, and if you value learning the true intent of one of the many concepts I have created that have changed the way the world trains – I believe you will enjoy this video program!

(1) King, I., 1998, Strength Specialization Series (DVD), Disc 3, approx 1hr 06m 00sec in
(2) King, I., 1998, How to write strength training programs, p. 38
(3) King, I., 1998, Strength Specialization Series (DVD), Disc 3, approx 1hr 03m 00sec in
(4) Shugart, Chris, 2001, The Ian King Cheat Sheets, Part 1 - A quick and dirty look at all the cool stuff Ian King has taught us so far, Fri, Aug 24, 2001, T-mag.com
(5) Reference available upon request.
(6) If you can call deceit 'effective'
(7) One even made the effort to use his own words
(8) Interestingly both ‘authors’ claimed to have ‘read everything there is to read in physical preparation’
(9) Although one did claim the content of my seminar was so bad he needed to walk out and take as many of the audience with him!