T Nation

Line Cook versus Master Chef?


Coach Thibaudeau,

This question relates to program design as well as a lot of the training questions you've received throughout your career thus far. The title for the thread is borrowed from a sentiment expressed by Coach Boyle about how master chefs can get creative and improvise whereas cooks should stick to the recipe/cook book and hone their basic skills first. He related this to the different levels of coaching.

While you're clearly a very humble man, I am sure you'd reluctantly agree with the prevailing sentiment that you're one of the finest performance enhancement specialists in the world. Consequently, you're in very rare company when it comes to the depth and breadth of your knowledge about all things relating to physique improvement and performance enhancement. On the flip side, you have those of us who regularly seek you out for your input, and we all arrive here with different backgrounds, strengths, and weaknesses when it comes to our training knowledge. I feel that it is somewhat safe to say that even the most knowledgeable folks on this board would still admit to learning a thing or 20 from you, and would admit to feeling like rank novices compared to the knowledge you possess. This is clearly a testament to your abilities and in no way a knock on anyone here.

In you opinion, how often do people come to you with programming questions where you end up thinking to yourself that simpler solutions would likely get the job done? I'm all for optimizing things as much as possible, but with easy access to world-class training minds like yours, it seems that many of us tend to over-think and complicate things (often in the hopes of emulating what we learn from experts like you when we may not full grasp all of the ins and outs) instead of simplifying things and going with the most basic changes that will produce further results.

Your background in science and theory blended with years of practical experience is a rare combination and enables you to blend many disparate elements in ways that many coaches would not truly be able to understand. Would you agree that while many people can become excellent at developing very solid programs that only a handful, at best, would achieve your level where you basically reside on the cutting edge?

The goal with any profession is obviously to be better today than you were yesterday, regardless of how you stack up to others within that profession. But is it fair to say that programming abilities are no different than sports in that you'll always have your all-stars, second-tier players, and bench warmers, so to speak?

I apologize for being a bit verbose and meandering with this post. Essentially my intent here is to get your thoughts on finding a balance between mastering what you know already as opposed to adding more on your plate when you may not have the tools to fully harness the new elements.

Imitation is supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery, and yet these days, there is such an increased focus on finding the best/most optimal way to accomplish X that you find many guys who freeze up from being so fearful of making the slightest mistake or doing something in a less-than-optimal manner. And thanks to our ever-shrinking world, you now often hear about what you may be doing that isn't optimal right away as opposed to being in your own little world at the gym and experimenting to find the right combination, which leads to an even greater tendency toward "paralysis by analysis."

It would be great to hear any of your thoughts relating to this post, but if it's just too expansive a topic to get into, I fully understand.