Is Your Coach a Fraud?

By: Brian Carroll

We’re living in a “cult of personality” world. That world, circa 2014, is now completely and utterly dominated by social media. Go on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and what you’ll see everywhere is style taking precedence over substance. That’s why you’ll see reality show contestants getting 10,000 “likes” on quasi-literate Facebook posts that say nothing significant about anything at all.


And it’s making us all suck.

The fitness industry is no exception. Every month, we’re treated to some new fad or trend that’s touted as the greatest thing since sliced bread—and that includes several gimmicky programs that have come out over the past few years purporting to be the next big thing when it comes to building strength. You know the ones I’m talking about because you probably bought them.

To the people who’ve written, written about, endorsed, and followed these programs so religiously, I have only one question:

Where are your champions?

My problem here is that I do not see any tangible world-class results from any of these systems. I can’t find anyone at the top of the mountain in any sport who got there as a result of purchasing these programs. Where are they hiding?

How Powerlifting Works

In this article, I outlined why you should be listening to powerlifters about getting stronger, so I’m going to use powerlifting as my example here. I’m also referencing powerlifting because some of the best-selling books in the fitness industry were written by mid-level powerlifters, with programs supposedly designed for powerlifters, promising to take them to the top of the pile.

I either compete in, or coach athletes for, the top powerlifting meets in the world, and I can say with authority that none of the top lifters in the world reached that level by using fad programs. I know how they train, I know the people they train with, and I know who coaches them, and it doesn’t work that way. These are athletes who design their programs and receive the best coaching in the world at gyms like Westside Barbell and Big Iron. It’s always been that way, and it always will.

Don’t believe the hype.

Making Sense of the Gimmicks

Now that several powerlifting-based programs have hit the mainstream—at least in terms of getting an audience among serious people who want to get strong—I’m constantly hearing how effective they are as a result of how much “sense” they make, as though the mark of an effective system is how perfect of a circle it makes mathematically.

What does “making sense” actually mean, though? The key to a great program isn’t marketing or clever math. That stuff looks great on a sales page, but doesn’t a program have to work to be considered great? What happened to that criteria, and why aren’t we judging coaches and systems that way?

What you want, then, is to throw away the gimmicks that have you spinning your wheels with systems that will bore the crap out of you within a few months. Drop those and take a longer view, mapping out your training for the next five, ten, or twenty years. That’s how champions figure out their training, so why shouldn’t you do the same?

The Cult of Personality

In 10/20/Life, I outline a six-question series that’ll teach you how to choose a coach. When you invest in a product, whether it’s a DVD, eBook/book, or online training package, you’re placing your trust in someone. You’re gambling that the “coach” in question has produced a quality product, that his/her product works, and that they give a shit about you and your training.

When I look at several of the top-selling products out right now, it occurs to me that I’ve either outperformed—or coached people who’ve outperformed—pretty much everyone who’s selling anything. That’s what inspired me to create my list of coaching criteria questions—because if you’ve done nothing of significance in your lifting career, you’ve never coached anyone good, and you have no education or history of mentoring under people who know what they’re doing, what good are you to anyone?

If you want a book that teaches you how to be cool and gives you a countercultural “I play by my own rules” guy to blindly follow, 10/20/Life isn’t the system for you. However, if you want to get strong as hell and become a leader yourself, you’re on the right track, because that’s what you should be aspiring to—instead of taking the easy way out by following the crowd, assimilating into someone’s cult of personality, and turning in average high school football player lifts after a year of work.

Where Are All These Strong People?

When I see all these programs and read on social media about how great they are, this is what I want to know. Who’s getting strong from these systems? Where are the results? Where are the top-3 finishes in the biggest powerlifting meets in the world? Where are the bodybuilders, strongmen, and CrossFit games competitors taking this advice and using it to win?

If you want to get good at something, go to the top—and not to some middle-of-the-road guy who’s never walked the walk, never coached anyone to the top, and never reached the pinnacle of any sport personally. Having a rap, an image, and good marketing is an excellent thing if you’re an author, but in the long run, what’s that going to do for you?

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Brian Carroll

Owner and Founder at
Brian Carroll is committed to helping people overcome back pain and optimizing lifts and movement. After years of suffering, he met back specialist Prof. McGill in 2013, which led to a life-changing transformation. In 2017, they co-authored the best-selling book "Gift of Injury." On October 3, 2020, Carroll made history in powerlifting by squatting 1306 lbs, becoming the first person to break this record. He retired with a secure legacy and a life free from back pain.
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