By: Barbell Logic Team

Sharing the benefits of strength training is alternatively one of the most rewarding and most frustrating tasks you can take on. On the one hand, consider all the benefits that training has given to you. It would almost be irresponsible not to proselytize a little bit. Not everyone will listen, most will not get it. But if the possibility is to change someone’s life then every person you happen to convince is worth every ounce of effort. Here are some tips for making that happen.

How to Get Other People to Start Training

woman squatting

Photo: Nick Delgadillo

Sharing the benefits of strength training is alternatively one of the most rewarding and most frustrating tasks you can take on. On the one hand, consider all the benefits that training has given to you. It would almost be irresponsible not to proselytize a little bit. Sometimes the most innocuous word or chance meeting is the spark that ignites someone else’s interest in strength training. But, on the other hand, most people just don’t get this thing that you do.  It seems extreme to some, mundane to others, or just inaccessible to most people. “It’s great for you, but not for me.”

If your goal is to share this benefit with others, ultimately the goal is to get them under the bar. As Dr. Sullivan and others have pointed out, if you can get someone under the bar you can change their life. You may be able to talk all day about the benefits that strength training has brought to you, cite its many benefits for everyone else, and make an argument for why everyone should train. But, sometimes it helps to be more tactical in your approach, to be mission-oriented, your objective being actual weight moved, sets and reps completed, and squats performed. If you have a friend or loved one you’ve been trying to convince to join you at the gym, here are some possible strategies taken from established sales practices and our own experiences.

Disrupt the Status Quo

In business, most lost sales are lost to the status quo. The first choice someone makes is not between Item A or Item B, it is between doing something or doing nothing. And doing nothing is always easier than doing something. Inertia is your first foe.

What makes a difference is the evidence, making the status quo less attractive.

When it comes to convincing people to train for strength. The status quo is usually to do nothing. While a person might not be satisfied with where they are at, it is much more difficult to begin training and build momentum than it is to talk about training or think about doing it on Monday. The first conversation is NOT that Starting Strength is the answer to all your problems. The first conversation is that strength training is beneficial and worth changing their daily routine to try.

How do you begin that conversation?

It starts with YOU

If you are wanting to share the benefits that incorporating strength training has had in your life, the first step is to make yourself “Patient #1.” This concept comes from Dr. Iwan Nantschev whom The Starting Strength Podcast interviewed earlier this year. (Listen here: The Starting Strength Podcast) Dr. Iwan an internist in Bavaria, who heard about Starting Strength through the work of Dr. Sullivan and his book The Barbell Prescription (co-authored with Andy Baker). Dr. Iwan was convinced of the theory of strength training and its possible benefits for himself and for his patients. But, rather than starting all of his patients on a Starting Strength regimen, he began with himself, calling himself “Patient #1.” He began to train, being coached by his son and started doing the program.

We often discount the n=1 approach, using your own experience as an argument in favor of or against something. But if your goal is to show other people the benefits of strength training, the best thing you can do is to take the n=1 study. Do it yourself, and be a representative of the benefits. For Dr. Iwan, his testimony that his own back and knee pain went away is powerful. Already an active person, with the benefits of strength training he could now, in his own words, not only walk up mountains in his home country but walk down them as well. This might not be the best scientific argument for the theory and practice of training, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to convince someone to give it a shot, and your own experience as a representative of the overall benefits of training is more powerful than you might think.

And this part is easy. Train hard, get strong, then show-off. People take notice when you are the example of strength among your peers or your family. When you are the one who everyone asks to do the heavy lifting. Being strong is like being the only one who has a pickup truck: Everyone asks you for help when it’s time to move. That type of usefulness is a jumping-off point for any conversation about the benefits that strength carries for everyone.

Selling Strength

Another sales technique is “Storybranding” in which you make the person whom you are trying to convince the hero of their own choice. In this, you never sell someone on special features or even services. Instead, you make them the “hero” and your product the tool they need to solve a problem.

In hero stories, everyone has some issue or problem, some dilemma that needs solving. Most people would benefit from strength training, but everyone has a different view of what that benefit might look like. Part of selling someone on the benefits of strength training requires that you identify their own view of that problem, and help show them how strength training might be the solution.

In this, you take the storied role of a guide who offers direction, plan, or advice. Heroes can rarely solve their own problems at the outset, and people who are interested in a particular pursuit almost always first look for a guide. (Read more about how Coaches can act as your guide.) This is where the materials that you are familiar with play a big role: The Barbell Prescription and Starting Strength are excellent guides or plans for someone who believes that strength is the solution to their problem. If you can, keep an extra copy on hand, few things are as directly personally persuasive as handing someone the tome they need to accomplish their goals.

If that doesn’t work there is always the more forceful option…

Conscription

This works especially well if you are an aspiring coach—or perhaps have signed up for the Barbell Coaching Academy. Why? You need to practice your coaching, and to practice, you need a willing body. This is the perfect excuse to coerce a loved one into training with the simple declaration that you need them to practice your coaching.

This turns the previous point on its head. Instead of offering guidance, you are the one who needs saving. You need their help to further your coaching practice. Make it free and convenient, remove obstacles, buy them shoes if you have to. The goal is to string them along long enough that they begin to see and feel the benefits of the activity themselves.

Make it easy. But get a commitment to train a few times with you. It takes two weeks. If someone trains for two weeks, they will begin to see noticeable and impressive benefits from the training. Muscles will appear where they never were before, chronic pain often relents, and tasks become easier.

Use your wiles to get them under the bar. Keep them there for two weeks. And then start to have the conversations about what long-term training can do.

There is another method of this that has mixed results and happens with adult children and older parents quite often. The child will pay for a session with a coach, sign their parent up for training, and strongly encourage them to keep the appointment. This can be a positive thing and a nice kick in the pants for someone who is convinced that they need to train but for whom inertia is a limiting factor.

It can, however, be problematic. If you sign someone up to train who has no idea what to expect or why they should listen to the coach, the training session will not be productive. There is a threshold of willingness and expectations that need to be addressed before you pay a coach and put someone through a training session. Most Starting Strength Coaches would be more than happy to talk with someone and help educate them. The best first step here is to reach out to your local coach and set up a conversation with the person you are trying to convince to start training. If everyone understands the situation, the goals, and the methods, then conscripting them to train will be much more fruitful.

Whether by example, persuasion, or force, when you target your family and friends for your strength training advocacy, your energy is best spent if you…

Target the ones who need it most, then team up.

Everyone benefits from strength training. But it benefits some people more than others, and they will usually recognize those benefits sooner and with a more profound revelation.

In particular, masters lifters tend to value training more than their younger counterparts. Start with those who need and will benefit from this type of training the most. If you can get them convinced and training, they will become an example of the benefits this has for everyone, and the biggest advocates for why everyone needs to strength train.

There is strength in numbers, and it is not uncommon for whole families to start training once a few have reaped the benefits.

In summary:

  • Be a good example: be useful and show off your strength.
  • Identify the specific ways that strength training will benefit your loved ones, and
  • Carry around a copy of Starting Strength and the Barbell Prescription.
  • Conscription: convince those that need it most to “help you” by showing up to the gym to train.
  • Team up: When you get one person training, others are more likely to follow.

Not everyone will listen, most will not get it. But if the possibility is to change someone’s life, to help make someone strong who thought the inexorable slide into frailty and weakness was their only option, to give someone the tools to meet their own physical goals, or just to open someone else’s eyes to their own potential, then every person you happen to convince is worth every ounce of effort.

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