Recently, Chad Waterbury and I were emailing back and forth about something, and in discussing his new book, he typed something along the lines of the following:

Originally, I wanted to write a book that would be on the same level as the second coming of Supertraining. When I mentioned it to Lou Schuler, he responded with, "That's great, Chad, but how about you write a book that people would actually like to buy and read?"

Chad is a brilliant guy; there's no doubt in my mind that he could put out an incredible resource that would make us exercise physiology geeks salivate just like the late Mel Siff's original masterpiece did. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on who you ask), there are probably 5,000 casual observers of exercise physiology in the world for every geek who would actually read such a book. So, logically, Chad wrote a fantastic book that was suited for the 5,000 rather than the one.

As I look back at my writing (and coaching, for that matter) over the past few years, I can't help but wonder about some of the stuff I've written or said. I was too wordy and technical; did people actually understand me? Hell, did they even pay attention after hearing "scapular downward rotation with associated humeral anterior glide syndrome?" Did anyone actually make it all the way to the end of a Cressey article or forum response?

Without even knowing it, I've progressed in much the same way that Chad has over the past few years. Both of us would love to just write nerdy exercise physiology stuff all day, but the truth of the matter is that we've been more successful as writers by taking the scientific stuff and rephrasing it in terms that ordinary folks can understand. My first book, The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, was a perfect example; I've worked with enough athletes to know that there are a lot of them who are a few cards short of a deck, so I wrote the manual for the Average Joes to understand.

Likewise, most people don't have the time to try to "translate" science mumbo-jumbo; that's why they seek out our expertise! How often do you see a guy go to his accountant and ask for the accountant to explain a complex tax code when he could just ask the guy to do his taxes?

To that end, I've found that one way to get my point across both in person and in my writing is to use analogies. Here are a few that I find myself using all the time — and ones that you can use to rationalize your recommendations with the lay folks that you encounter.

Analogy #1: Your "core" is like a tree-trunk — or a twig — in a hurricane.

If you want to perform at a high level and protect your lower back, you simply have to learn to brace the abs — and that means "puffing out" your belly. By "belly breathing," we increase intra-abdominal pressure, which helps the surrounding musculature to stabilize the lumbar spine. We all know, however, that everyone wants a flat tummy, so the idea of "getting distended" for health and performance can be a tough sell. Here's what to tell them...

Imagine a tree in a hurricane. There are winds (shearing and compressive forces) through it in every different direction.

The tree has its roots (your lower body) and a bunch of branches (your upper body) to support, and the only thing connecting those two things is the tree trunk (your core). Would you prefer to have a thick tree trunk, or a twig supporting the branches above? Wouldn't a thick tree trunk provide a better base of support?

Analogy #2: Your metabolism is like a fireplace.

You and I both know that frequent meals are the absolutely best way to get bigger, leaner, stronger, faster, and healthier. Unfortunately, your fat uncle Guido doesn't, and insists that one big pasta meal at dinner and nothing during the day will be sufficient to get him lean. You've got two options to get the message across to him:

Analogy #3: Neural efficiency is like a construction crew.

One of the most important adaptations that kicks in with resistance training is the ability to recruit more muscle fibers. Over time, our brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves become more and more efficient at telling muscles to fire — and do so quickly and forcefully. A complete beginner might only be able to recruit 50% of the muscle fibers in his body, while a highly trained lifter might approach 90%. Neural efficiency is the reason why big guys aren't always the strongest guys. Here's how you can explain this to your buddy who's new to lifting:

Analogy #4: In-season lifting is like a millionaire CEO on vacation.

Unfortunately, a lot of athletes (and parents) have yet to appreciate how important it is to lift during competitive seasons. Based on my own experiences, several published studies, and discussions with other coaches, I can say without hesitation that lifting in-season reduces injury rates. That's hard to fathom for the casual observer to performance training, so here's an analogy for you.

Analogy #5: Insulin is like the asshole with the drum set in the college dorm during final exams.

As perfect evidence of how I used to write (and could continue to write), check out this paper I published back in 2003. It was actually a midterm paper for an Exercise Endocrinology course I was taking during my graduate program at the University of Connecticut:

Understanding Insulin

Once you've woken up from your nap, we'll move on...

Basically, the take-home message I'd like the lay population to have when it comes to insulin is that it works in opposition to several crucial hormones — glucagons, growth hormone, cortisol, and the catecholamines — that promote lipolysis (the liberation of fatty acids for transport to mitochondria for oxidation). Unfortunately, none of the science jargon in that article is going to get the job done. To that end...

Conveniently, an insulin-resistant drummer (who likely still lives in his parents' basement)

And if this analogy doesn't work, you can always just point them to the 847,346 studies now available that verify that low-carbohydrate diets far outperform low-fat diets.

Analogy #6: Coaches/trainers are like chefs.

Let's face it; we have a tremendously unregulated industry. People can get weekend certifications and then do nothing more in the rest of their careers to advance professionally. Unfortunately, to the uninformed consumer, with the exception of referrals from friends, there isn't much that differentiates Personal Trainer or Coach A from Personal Trainer or Coach B. When someone implies that one trainer is as good as the next, here's what you can say:

Analogy #7: The healthy lifestyle is like a math progression.

Everyone here has met the overzealous newbie who wants every supplement and fancy training program — and he wants them yesterday. Unfortunately, he's still eating potato chips at every meal and doing curls in the squat rack. Most of us know this kid needs to get the basics down first, but that's not always an easy sell when you're dealing with a teenage mind that's hopped up on sugar and Olsen-twin-induced hormone surges. Tell him to take a cold shower, and then share this.

Along these same lines, I highly recommend checking out Chris Shugart's article, The Bodybuilder's Hierarchy of Needs.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully these analogies set you straight on something that may have been a bit hazy — or gave you some ammunition to use on a spouse, relative, friend, or co-worker who needs to hear things in their own language in order get things straight.