Farm to Table Lifting

by Michael Jones | December 28, 2022

ssc coaching a lifter in the deadlift at a starting strength gym

A few days ago I was speaking with a friend who is opening his own restaurant. His vision, as he put it, was not just “farm-to-table,” but “fertilizer-to-fertilizer.” He is so invested in his craft that he is concerned about the soil from which the chicken feed grows. He noted that the detailed process of generating a product of this quality would be very expensive, and that the average patron cannot afford to eat at his restaurant all of the time. Now, I don't know much about this kind of stuff, but this guy was in love with the process, not just the end product. For him the process is as much the goal as the goal itself is. This, of course, got me thinking about training.

I have been faced with this kind of conundrum a number of times when speaking with potential clients: “Why would I invest my time and money in you, your model, and your gym?” And that is understandable. Compared to recreation-model fitness clubs, Starting Strength Coaches and gyms are expensive. Now, this isn’t an article about why our coaches are better. They are. And everyone reading this knows that. Nor is it a sales pitch, although it may sound like one. This is about why your experience with one of us will be better from beginning to end – from farm-to-table, as it were.

I often tease my lifters who have only trained at Starting Strength gyms that they are spoiled with it all. One day on vacation, I tell them, when they go train somewhere else, they will run into a strange phenomenon – no other gym is as training-friendly as gyms run by Starting Strength Coaches. In other gyms they will have to use barbells that are too thin and whippy or too thick and stiff, have very shallow knurling, sleeves that are frozen, inaccurate plates, no bumper plates, no fractional plates, no friendly spotters, and no chalk. That is because these places are not intended for training – they are for recreation, and sales – and that becomes abundantly clear when one of our lifters walks in.

In contrast, you walk in to a Starting Strength gym knowing that everything you need is ready for your workout. You know what you will be doing that day because it is in your training log and on the digital logbook on the monitor at the front door. And you feel good because your coach suggested upping your protein and carbs the last time you saw him – he knows what you will be doing that day, and has invested himself in your workout. Your power rack is available, clean, and waiting for use, as is the espresso machine a few feet farther down next to the water fountains, and refrigerator where you can chill your post-workout meal.

The high quality bars are standing in their racks, enough of them that everyone in the gym has their own bar. The chalk bowls have blocks of good chalk, your gym bag fits nicely under the bench, and behind you is a personal white board where you and your coach can write out cues, sets and reps, or diagrams of technique corrections. As you reach to grab the quality milled plates – again plenty for everybody – you notice they fit perfectly in your grip, and that as you pull them off of the plate rack they slide off easily because the pins are the right size for the plates. All of this while other lifters are doing the same, tuning up as an orchestra does in the pit before the show begins.

And this is all before you have done a single rep. None of this happened by accident, because this is what we do. It is all we do, and we are very damned good at it. We do it this way because we care about our lifters and their progress. (Note that nothing here has been said about the actual coaching, but instead your experience since before you walked in the front door up to your first rep.)

As you finish your workout, it’s easy to put things back in their place because we planned for that also. Plates go back on tree with little effort, bar slides into the bar rack, steam hisses for post-workout espresso. Next workout is logged, you know you need to eat a little more or a little less for the next bodyweight goal, and you feel confident in your next workout and the gains that are coming. There is a simple elegance to it that seems effortless and easy. Yes, you’ve gotta do the hard stuff, you know, like actually lifting the weight, eating and sleeping. But we have the rest covered for you so that attaining your goals is as straightforward as it can be.

When potential members walk into my gym, I can let them observe a class, teach them to do one of our foundational lifts, or let them peruse any of our members’ log-books, because it all speaks for itself. What they don’t notice is the stuff that shouldn’t be noticeable: all of the background work the gym and the Starting Strength system has done to make training a priority. So when my friend said that not every dining experience can be like it is at his place, I think to myself that every training experience can and should be like this – at my Starting Strength gym. Maybe it is a sales pitch, but it's the truth. Come by one of our gyms and see for yourself. Grab some espresso, learn how to deadlift, and make some friends.

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