The following is an extract from
Insights into what makes winners truly great.
The 55th Lesson
Go to the source, not the disciples.
Exclusive extract from “59 Lessons: Working with the World’s Greatest Coaches, Athletes, & Special Forces’ by Fergus Connolly, now available on Amazon
In a nondescript industrial park lies an unremarkable warehouse outside Columbus, Ohio. There is no sign, no name, nothing to signal what lies behind it. Morning after morning for decades, the strongest men in the world have walked through the doors to train at an elite, invitation-only facility. In a small torture chamber, they lift bars and weights that look nothing like the polished colored plates or machines you find in modern college or professional NFL team weight rooms. Under a true pioneer in the world of strength, they train to move rusted battered weights, setting world records by a half inch. 25lbs is always 25lbs – polishing it doesn’t make it lighter.
Louie Simmons owns and runs this gym. He has trained and prepared more record holders in powerlifting than anyone in the world. Louie developed his Westside Barbell method over many years of study, theory, and practice. An accomplished athlete in his own right, he’s one of only five lifters to record elite totals in five different weight classes.
He has written many books and openly shares his concepts, which many have copied. But there is only one Louie and only one Westside. Having studied the Westside Method for years and trained many athletes in the methodology, I thought I knew a lot about it. But when Louie invited me to come visit I also believed that many of his approaches would be in direct conflict with what I had learned from other coaches in different sports because powerlifting is so different than team settings. But sitting across from Louie in his office, discussing many of his principles with him, Tom Barry, and John Quint, I found more similarities than differences.
This is not the first time I’ve had such a realization, but it underlined again for me the need to go directly to the source, to tap leaders and ignore advocates or second- hand disciples. When you discuss techniques with Louie, you find that he is not only a gold mine of information and experience, but also a sophisticated thinker. Delve deeper into Louie’s mind and principles and you find out how solid his logic and understanding really are.
DON’T WASTE TIME ON SECONDHAND INFORMATION.
GO TO THE SOURCE.
Sitting with Louie was somewhat of a déjà vu experience. For years before I went to stay with Charlie Francis in Canada, I had read and re-read his coaching book Training for Speed and his fascinating autobiography Speed Trap many times. I’d also spent hours poring over his website forum, where people would debate aspects of his Vertical Integration system that encourages coaches to train each one of their athletes’ attributes to some degree at all times. As a result of all this reading and research, I had a pretty firm idea about what Charlie’s methods were. These informed the 20 questions I’d written down to ask him.
A few weeks later on the flight home, I pulled out the piece of paper to see if I had missed anything. Going slowly down the list of questions, I realized I hadn’t gotten an answer to a single one. It slowly dawned on me that the reason was simple: I wasn’t even asking the right questions.
This taught me a valuable lesson about the dangers of misinterpreting the written word or worse still, second- hand information. Yes, you can glean insights from what experts write or say in an interview, but you won’t get the full story unless you actually spend time with them and leave your preconceptions at the door.
Go to the source!