A Closed Mind Is Harming Your Performance!
This is my story, it isn’t a particularly heroic one but it is one that I feel needs to be told. This won’t is about my triumphant return to greatness or the fact that life beat me down and I managed to weather the storm.
No, this is a call to action to those who are stuck in their ways. It doesn’t seem like something that would require me to write about but I feel like these notions of one way is THE only way or how someone’s philosophy is so righteous that everything else pales in comparison.
I may be talking directly about sports performance and strength and conditioning here but the same is true across a myriad of other disciplines. From relationship advice, all the way to, of course, politics.
This left vs right argument, this black vs white, this conjugate vs undulating periodization. I mean in the grand scheme of thing philosophies on strength and conditioning have no real business being spoken in the same tongue as more consequential topics but I digress.
I started my athletic journey at the age of 14, ya that is pretty old to be starting an athletic career to some and I would tend to agree. I was a big kid, just under 6 feet tall but a sloppy 230lbs just a lumber mass of untapped potential. However, I got talked into joining the football team and I proceeded to excel at that sport moving through to the collegiate level where my football career ended.
Throughout all of my football career, there was another sport that I had a great passion for, powerlifting. I was always fascinated with strength and powerlifting was my way expressing that. I happened to be lucky enough to have people who taught me the basics of strength. They took the time out of their lives and gave me the tools to get strong.
The problem was I was told that there was only one way to train and everything else is not correct. I gained this false narrative that there is no other way to effectively train and just doing 5x5,5x3, and10x2 or whatever were the only way to train. Forget experimenting with different training tools.
It was the barbell and nothing else. I am not the only one who was taught this. I can’t and won’t blame those that taught me though. It was all they knew and it was my fault for not being open-minded to other things much earlier. I attribute a number of my injuries to constantly beating myself into the ground doing the same training for years on end expecting the results to be different.
Luckily enough though I decided to dig into other training methods. I studied more scientific approaching to training and I even read some of the early Soviet union training manuals (difficult to read if you have no concept of sports science) Surprising enough the conjugate method that was made popular here in the west by Louie Simmons of the Westside Barbell Club. Many people have a preconceived notion of the westside barbell method but few really dig into the concepts and philosophies.
He is the first to say that he didn’t make anything up. He just followed the path paved by those who figured all this out before him. He just figured out the way in which to put it together. That was effective. A conjugate bases system is what I believe in now but more so than that this shift in mindset has affected the way I look at every single training method, and pieces of equipment.
There is space in this industry for everything. You can find a use for almost everything within reason. Using different barbells to stave off the low of accommodation, or using a variety of conditioning tools to increase your overall GPP.
Kettlebells and Mace bells
The kettlebell and the macebell are great examples of this. I have waved in and out of barbell training to using “unconventional” tools. A kettlebell is a great tool for posterior chain development with the kettlebell swing and the macebell is fantastic for upper body conditioning as well as mobility. The facts are that both of these tools can be used to increase the efficacy of your overall training. I have personally found great benefits from both.
Namely the steel mace. I mean the kettlebell has a well-known pedigree in sports performance and it has been proven time and again to be effective. However, the mace is still relatively obscure and when I found it I quickly realized how broad of spectrum it could cover. The learning curve granted was rather steep because it requires you to learn to relax in specific positions and contract in others. I will go into form and technique in another article.
Once you do master the form however the loading capacity of some mace movements is rather high if you can find the tools. Can be used for conditioning, and even to some extent absolute strength.
The Importance of Weakness
Probably the most important lesson I have learned when it comes to being open-minded is identifying, and attacking weakness using movements that you may have once thought were a literal waste of time. Learning that continued progress and that untapped potential lies within those weaknesses.
Many people these days believe that in order to succeed in life you need to focus on your strengths. Sometimes even double or tripling down on them. Which I suppose in certain environments is a good thing. However when it comes to sports performance, focusing on your strengths is a waste of time.
Seeking out a weakness in all areas of an athlete is the key to increasing your ability to perform on the field. You have to know what is limiting your ability to move forward. Many people are not clear on this concept. It is the key aspect of sports performance. If you are only working on your strengths you will only ever be good at that but even your strengths have a limit. It will get to the point where it will no longer progress.
Let me give you an example. If you are fantastic at squatting, you have built it up to a point where it is in the level of elite. You will find that if you continue to just squat in order to increase it something will break. A part of the system will not be able to keep up with the other stronger parts of the body. Whether it be the upper back, the lower back, and a variety of other parts of the human body.
The facts are something will fail. This area of failure is a weakness. Now imagine if you take the time to build up this area. It is fair to say that you will now be able to progress further than you were before. Let’s run this concept through:
Seek weakness: Safely go up in weight until a fault is found
Identify weakness: Once the fault is found, make note of everything that is going wrong.
Attack weakness: Prescribe exercises that will help to eliminate the identified weakness
Seek weakness: Safely go up in weight until another fault is found
Repeating this process every single time. If you have done this correct you should be constantly moving in a positive direction. The key is to be self-aware as well as understand that finding weaknesses is not some attack on your ego but rather the process in which true all-encompassing potential is realized.
You have to know who you are. You have to be willing to admit where you are lacking and also know where you are strong. This is the key to being willing to attack those weaknesses you find. I understand it can be hard to admit that you aren’t the “god” or the perfect athlete. The facts are even the most elite of athletes have weaknesses and they have had them for their entire lives and understand that they need to be constantly vigilant in bringing them up to par with the rest of the system.
Once you have come to terms with the fact that you are not perfect and they you much like everyone else will have a weakness somewhere at some time you need to understand the importance of attacking it. You can do this in a number of ways. The most important step is to acknowledge your weaknesses and move toward improving the next.
When you are seeking and identifying weakness you have to understand what exercises are going to efficiently diminish them. For the sake of this article, I will leave you all with one platitude that will probably cover a high percentage of athletes these days.
The backside or posterior side of athletes these days are going to be the weakest parts of them. The entire posterior chain is the engine for athletic performance and a break in that chain is going to greatly affect your sports performance.
The posterior chain includes all muscles from the nape of your neck to your heels:
Traps, rear delts, rhomboids, Lats, Erectors, Glutes, Hamstrings, and calves.
Chances are your weakness is somewhere in one or more of these muscles. This system of muscles is responsible for almost all sports performance. Weakness in this system limits performance but also exposes an awesome opportunity to realize potential