Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why Does the CST Approach Work for Me?

Updated 2 May 2013

If i could just summarize everything that i have to say about this topic is this: applicability.

I have been certified in a few fitness systems including formal tertiary studies in Physiotherapy but none of them matches the ease of application of the system to (myself and) clients.

What i am going to do now is review all the points that i have presented in the featured articles and tell you why they work so well.

The 5 Fitness Hierarchy

It reminds and emphasizes to me that Health and Mobility takes precedence over Strength and Physique. It's not that i don't already know this, neither do other people (whether laymen or coaches), but that it gives you a clearer framework on where to target your training goals at. Functional training is a big word nowadays. But what function? Isn't being pain-free and being able to move all your joints freely in all directions a function that needs to be trained before so called "functional movements" like squats et al?

The 3 Rings of Joint Mobility, Yoga and Weight Lifting and Swinging

This reminds and emphasizes to me that there is no one tradition or discipline that has it all. Though Joint Mobility and Yoga clearly takes precedence over Weight Lifting and Swinging, they are not the end all be all. There are so many (movement) functions of the human body that you can't really (ie absolutely) specialize in any one discipline if you want to have healthy movement.

Some people say that they don't do Weight Lifting after switching to (note that it is switching, not adding) Yoga because Weight Lifting cause them pains and aches but Yoga relieves them. Well, this is improper Weight Lifting. Weight Lifting itself is not the problem. It is how they do it. Maybe improper technique, improper progression, improper exercises or some other reasons.

As an aside, it is interesting to know that a lot of people "self teach" themselves Weight Lifting, but the same people seek the teaching of an instructor when it comes to Yoga by attending classes. Is it any wonder that "Weight Lifting creates so many injuries"?

Well, the verdict after coming to CST is that Mobility and Strength are yin and yang. Neither can exist without the other. Weight Lifting is compensated through Mobility work (Joint Mobility and Yoga).

The 6 Degrees of Freedom

They tell me that i had been missing out on a big component of movement all along - the rotatory movements. As in a lot of things in fitness, we know them at the back of our minds, but without a coach to remind us of some things, they do not get emphasized and more likely be neglected.

Linear strength training is not enough. It must be complemented with Circular Strength Training to fully utilize the movement potential of the human body. In fact all the major joints of our limbs and trunk move rotationally.

The Intuitive Training Protocols (ITPs)

They teach me how to quantify quality. It is just interesting to me that all the three ITPs already exist in different fitness systems, but have never been married together in the manner presented in CST.

There are various pain scales including the Visual Analog Scale (for quantifying pain) which i had learned in Physiotherapy but nobody ever told me that it can also be used in training or healthy clients. Is it any wonder that people can push themselves lifting more weights despite having an injury and pain? It is a any wonder that people can get injured "through" Weight Lifting? If it is painful, STOP. it's common sense. Maybe common sense isn't so common.

In gymnastics and the dances, points are given for technique, but nobody every told me that the same system that can quantify technique in bodyweight exercises can also be used for weight training exercises and other exercises. Is it any wonder that people can lift weights with atrocious form and then wonder why they get injured "through" Weight Lifting?

There are various RPE scales like Borg's Scale to subjectively measure cardiovascular intensity, but nobody ever told me that the same scale can be used to quantify intensity in a general sense, whether it be for strength or endurance training or a combination of the two.

The 7 Key Components of Structure

Gives me a checklist of the important points of technique at my fingertips. As mentioned with the other points above, the Components are not new. Every fitness system have coaching cues like "hips straight, lock your knees, elbows locked etc", but they never define how many of these are and what they are.

With the 7 Components, you don't have to make any guesswork when teaching or correcting technique. What you need to do is compare what the client is performing against the instructions of the exercise.

The 5 Levels of Breath

Teach me that though there are wrong ways to breathe, there is no one right way to breathe but several. Gone are the days of "inhale on the negative, exhale on the positive", which is just one of the levels. As your Technique evolves through practice and getting more efficient, your Structure and Breath evolve along with it. There could be two people doing the exact same exercise but both may be using different breathing pattern and both could be right.


Confirms to me that there must always be a progression to exercises. It makes life simpler for the coach and for the trainee, when there are definite progressions to prescribed exercises, and that everyone can choose a level where they are challenged but not too hard where technique breaks down.

It also tells me that the hardest and most complex skills can be achievable by the poorest athlete, given enough time and practice. It pisses me off every time somebody says that some exercise is "too hard" for them, even though i have already assured them that the programs (or exercises) are suitable (or scalable)  for all fitness levels.

Even if the stock programs' Sophistication levels are not enough, there can be infinite steps of progression to suit every skill level. The limit is only your imagination.

CST Stock Programs

There are many programs released by the Rmax Faculty and CST Head Coaches. This i say is one of the genius of the system.

In many other fitness systems, coaches are "educated" to design their own programs for their clients from the get go. What this can lead to is poor program design (which can lead to a lot of bad things including injury). It is a fact that there are a million exercises and variations out there. You can even get them free on the net. But notice how many people design crappy programs, especially those "self taught" recreational gym goers? Even fitness professionals (i won't say from where, but you know who they are), who supposedly should do better are guilty of this.

Not in CST. At the lower tier of CST Professionals, we are not taught to design programs, but to apply ready made programs to ourselves first then to our clients. We must show proficiency in the programs first then are we qualified to teach them to our clients. That's why it is the rule in CST that we can only conduct programs that we have been instructed in.

Now this seems narrow minded and limiting at first. But it is done for our own good. Think of when your first picked up a new sport (say martial art or dance), you would listen intently and do exactly what the coach teaches you. It is the same for fitness. If you are not familiar with the system as is, how could you create programs out of the system (instead of from your previous background)? I learn more from doing the stock programs than designing my own programs.

The 4x7

It teaches me the importance of Recovery compared to Training. Recovery is King, Training is Queen. In no other system i had been certified in is this emphasized. Without a proper Recovery, your High Intensity would suffer. In fact this can be felt immediately after the insufficient recovery.

It teaches me that most people underrecover rather than overtrain. As it has been said many times out there, most people don't train hard enough to warrant a diagnosis of overtraining. They are underrecovering. Anybody can hit a High Intensity anytime (if they want to), but if that High Intensity has a low absolute performance, how good is the value of that training?

It teaches me intelligent waving of intensity for maximal gains in minimal time. This includes the Intensities and the content of the non-training days. In no other systems i had been in has this been prescribed. It had always been "one day on one day off" or something to that extend. Anybody can make gains with some training, but the more advanced you before, the more you need to be precise in your programming to get less and less gains (diminishing returns). This specific waving of Intensity according to the Fibonacci Sequence ensures that advanced athletes can get better gains compared to conventional programming. And if it works for advanced athletes (which gain less than newbies), it works even better for newbies. Is it any wonder that some people train Moderate Intensity all the time (the toners, shapers, pumpers aka the aerobics crowd), and some train High Intensity all the time (the hardcore crowd) and don't make progress or get injured?

It gives me a template that gives me freedom in my programming. No more do i "need" to train on this day that day on a strict schedule. What i need is just to follow the Intensity Waving sequence of No-Low-Mod-High and that's it. And just plug in the training programs on the Mod and High Days. If i need to travel or do some significant extra physical exertions (moving furniture etc.), what i need to do is still follow the sequence and it won't affect my training a single bit. Maybe add an (or a few) extra No and/or Low Days if recovery is not sufficient and resume the sequencing.


CST is easily applicable to any fitness goals. If you are a newbie in CST, you DO NOT have to know the nitty gritty details that i have outlined in the featured articles. What you need to do is simply get started with a stock program designed to the very high quality control by Scott Sonnon and the Rmax Faculty. Just follow the program as prescribed. Everything has been done for you. You just need to put in the sweat and results are guaranteed. As you do the programs, your knowledge of the system would naturally increase and soon, you'd be going deeper into the rabbit hole. :)

Read more on the theory of CST in Primal Stress: