Dictionary.com's definition of honesty is "freedom from deceit or fraud". The first synonym provided is "integrity".
When I was a freshman in college I couldn't do a single "honest" pull-up. Heck, I could barely budge when hanging from the bar! I knew 12 year old girls who could do chin ups, it was embarrassing. Over the course of about 9 months, though, I built up to 10 so-so pull ups. By so-so, I mean I wasn't going down all of the way, I didn't get my chin up above the bar on every rep, and my legs and hips were wiggling and swaying all over the place in an effort to get my body moving in an upward direction. In essence, I was doing my body's pathetic version of a Crossfit-style kipping pullup!
In my mind, I felt like pretty hot stuff for achieving ten. It was rad that I could hop up to a bar and actually get my body to move, period! But I wasn't exactly doing them with integrity, if I'm honest. Since the stone-age days of 2006, though, I've learned a few things. Namely, if you want to get better at something as fast as possible, do it the perfect/correct/right way every time.
A few years ago, I learned about something called the Tactical Strength Challenge. The first was hosted in 2002, and there were three events: a 1 rep max deadlift, maximum pull-up repetitions, and maximum repetitions of kettlebell snatches. At that time, I didn't even know what a kettlebell snatch was, but I remember looking at photos and videos of how the folks doing their pull-ups performed them and mentally comparing those images with how I did my pull-ups. There was quite the discrepancy! In the Tactical variation of the pull-up, trainees were required to start from a dead-hang. Arms were straight, legs were straight and knees were locked. Feet were curled up towards the nose, glutes were clenched tight enough they could hold an Oreo, and abs were braced like they were awaiting a punch. There was little to no wasted motion, and the trainees all appeared very powerful on their ascent and smooth descent.
This approach to the pull-up opened my eyes to the "hardstyle" training philosophy. All of a sudden, strength training appeared to be much more disciplined and strict, which appealed to me. And as soon as I started training in this way, I realized that my "honest" strength levels were far below what I once thought they were. It was a sad day when I realized that 100% of my personal bests in my lifts were frauds, because they didn't measure up to the standards set by those who ran the Tactical Strength Challenge.
That realization was an incredibly eye opening experience, because for me, for the first time ever, strength training was a skill and not just something one had to do to look better. Especially because up until that point, I hadn't quite bought into the fact it would make a person look better...probably because I wasn't doing things correctly, so I wasn't exactly getting the true benefits of the movements! Go figure.
I began building the mobility, stability, and strength to perform a squat with my butt at or below parallel to the ground, a deadlift from the floor, a perfect kettlebell swing, and a legit tactical pull-up, among other things. It wasn't easy, but the fact I set standards for myself allowed me to aspire to a level of strength and general fitness I'd never achieved before, despite all of my previous athletic endeavors.
When it comes to training my clients, I hold them to the exact same standards I have with myself. They may not be capable of doing every single movement to these standards initially, but they can sure strive to reach that standard! If one strives to reach perfection, even if he or she comes up a few inches short, they will still be in an awesome spot. Seriously, what's the point of doing it just to get it done? If you're going to train, don't leave one foot in the door, jump in to the deep end in one giant cannonball of success.
As soon as training turns in to an exercise of just "going through the motions", all standards for success have been left behind, the purpose forgotten, the benefits lost. But if one trains at their "honest" level? They will become in tune with their body in a way that previously wasn't possible. And if they hold themselves to a high caliber in the gym, chances are their performance and integrity outside of it will be a direct reflection of that.