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Principles that Apply to All Athletes
In my career as a strength & conditioning/weightlifting/powerlifting coach, I have worked with some of the best athletes in America. I have lived a literal dream of a life. Because I was not afraid to chase my dreams both as an athlete and a coach, I have learned so many ideas and principles that I have applied to my programming and coaching. Lately, due to my present direction, I write a lot about the sport of weightlifting. I feel like I cheat my powerlifting brethren, and my traditional sport athletes. Today I am talking about principles that apply to all. These are principles that will help accelerate and prolong your training.
• Principle #1 Focus on Relative Strength! Relative strength refers to the way one moves their own body. A lot of athletes gain weight to simply put more weight on the bar. Sometimes this is a great idea, but often it is a terrible one. A great way to test relative strength is with three simple tests: pull-ups, push-ups, and pistol squats. If you gain weight, and your ability to perform these exercises decreases, then drop body fat. Another great way is to track your body fat percentage. If you gain weight and add 10% of body fat, then you have done nothing positive. An increase in body weight with a major increase in body fat simply puts you in a weight class that will find you less competitive.
For football players, soccer players, softball players, etc. if you gain weight and your relative strength goes down, they you just got slower. Martin Rooney is my go to guy for speed, and he focuses on relative strength much more than absolute strength.
• Principle #2 Focus on Mobility! If you gain weight, strength, or whatever, and you movement becomes less efficient, then you didn’t accomplish much. Powerlifters don’t have to move like weightlifters, but they still want to be in proper positions in the squat, bench, and deadlift. I have personally watched a lot of Powerlifters perform less than optimal because they couldn’t get in or maintain an optimal position.
Weightlifters and team sport athletes have to move perfectly to maximize performance. In weightlifting, the bottom line is the guy or gal that can catch the weight in the lowest position, Wins! Not to mention, the ability to maintain positions and a good overhead position are crucial elements. With team sport athletes, I watch so many young athletes focus on getting strong, but they neglect mobility. If the strength goes up and movement goes down, then the athlete just became less athletic.
• Principle #3 Muscular Balance! Louie Simmons has talked about this one for years. Zach Greenwald was the first one to start quantifying it. Muscular balance is important on so many levels. Muscular imbalance is a big cause of injury. If certain muscles aren’t firing properly, then other muscles are called on the work harder than intended causing over use. This can also cause muscles to act in ways that they weren’t intended causing even more issues. Also when muscles aren’t working properly, performance is obviously hindered. The entire body is one big component that is intended to work synergistically together. When a muscle or a group of muscles are impaired, then this whole chain is affected.
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• Principle #4 Focus on the Process and Not the Outcome! My athlete, friend, and partner, Rebecca Gerdon was talking about this yesterday. When an athlete is training, they should focus on the movement, technique, and positions. This applies to lifting weights, speed training, jump training, or anything else. Focus on the tangibles that you can affect, and then let time, increased strength, and improved mobility improve the results. Too many athletes focus on the numbers that day, and they will get bent out of shape when things don’t go well.
I have news for you: you will Not PR every day or every week! Focus on the things that you can improve every day, and the rest will take care of itself. I promise. If more people focused on the process, results in America would sky rocket. It would also decrease the amount of athletes that quit due to burn out.
• Principle #5 Culture is Every Thing! The type of athletes that you put together is crucial. Whether you are training for football, weightlifting, or powerlifting, the people who you train with are crucial. It’s imperative that all participants are working towards becoming the best that they can be. If you have one person goofing off, showing up later, and/or messing around, the whole group is affected negatively.
The coach is responsible for attracting and keeping the right athletes, and in certain times, the coach is responsible for firing the athlete that is not fitting the culture. The coach is also responsible for fitting the culture. If the coach is motivated and focused, then he or she can be a huge distraction. The coach really sets the tone for the entire group. All of my athletes are well aware that I am focused on success. No one really comes to me that is not trying to be the best that they can be, so that really weeds out most people that would distract by athletes. All coaches need to be well aware of the importance for them to have the best attitude in the building or on the field.
These principles are universal. There are not exceptions for any of these. If you are not focused on all elements, then I suggest a change in direction. If all five elements are applied, then a much higher success rate can be expected. I am going to focus on writing with more variety with focuses on all elements of strength and conditioning. I don’t want to cheat any of you, and there are so many principles from each that can be applied to all.
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