Before a new building can be erected on a site where an older building exists, the older building must be demolished first.
In much the same way, I'm going to start this article by demolishing a dearly-held myth that many trainees have regarding their avocation of choice:
“I'll finally reach my goals when I find the perfect training (or nutritional) program.”
Look, it's not your fault— I've been there too. I've had the experience of discovering some unique program in the latest muscle magazine that some super stud athlete supposedly used to transform himself from nothing to something. Even today, when I run across a unique training concept or program, I still salivate at the discovery...anticipating the workouts, the novelty of a new program. Problem is, you have to clarify your objective: is your passion in life intellectual masturbation, or breaking through long-standing plateaus to new PR's? If you answered the latter, read on.
Performance (or progress) Improves Only When Weak Links Are Identified And Fortified
It's pretty much this simple: if you want your chain to lift heavier weights, you've got to inspect that chain link by link, and identify the weakest segment in that chain. Then you've got to find a way to make that segment as strong, if not stronger than the others. Then you've got to find the second weakest link and repeat the process, which, incidentally, never ends. NOTE: Aside from avoiding habituation (the body's ever-decreasing reaction to repetitive, unchanging stimuli), the most important reason for altering training programs is to account for the continuous introduction of "new" primary weak links).
Hunting For Kingpins
In the logging industry, professional loggers have a very effective way to figure out how to clear huge log-jams as they attempt to send large numbers of trees down the river. What they do is to go downstream and find the "kingpin:" this is the single log which, if re-positioned ever so slightly, will restore the flow of logs down the river.
In much the same way, you'll need to find your own personal kingpins if you ever expect to accelerate your own rate of progress.
Some theorists suggest that one should ignore weaknesses and instead, focus on strengths. However, from my experience, a strength overused becomes a weakness. In assessing your own situation, determine whether or not the weak link is CORRECTABLE. If not, don't worry about it. If so, make it the number one priority until it is no longer your weakest correctable link.
The Staley Equation:
This is a strategy that I developed from my work with Olympic and professional athletes, as well as members of my private coaching group. In essence, the rule states that one should prioritize training elements (which could refer to habits, behaviors, muscle groups, motor qualities, etc) which are:
• Highly trainable
• Foundational to other elements
• Given available resources
As a brief explanation, let's look at the motor quality of maximal strength. For many athletes, it is needed AND underdeveloped. It is also quite easily improvable compared to some other motor qualities (such as speed, which has significant genetic constraints). Maximal strength creates a base for the development of speed strength, hypertrophy, strength-endurance, and can also help athletes avoid injuries. Finally, maximal strength can be developed using very rudimentary equipment such as barbells and dumbbells. So, it's clear that for many trainees, maximal strength should be prioritized according to the Q2 Prioritization Rule.
Most People's Weak Links Relate To BEHAVIORS, Not Activities
Most people, when examining their own training experiences, will notice that they have made acceptable levels of progress using all manner of training systems and approaches. Most will attribute this phenomenon to the fact that ANY new program will provoke an adaptive response (at least temporarily), simply due to it's novelty. However, I do not believe the novelty of a new training stimulus is sufficient to explain this observation. Instead, I propose that whether or not someone is successful during any given training program has less to do with the program per se, and more to do with the PERSON (and specifically, his or her behavior) as the program is carried out. Now, of course, I’m not saying that intelligently-designed training programs aren’t important— after all, I’ve created a career out of designing programs and teaching program design. I’m simply saying that for many people, developing better behaviors will have a greater payoff than looking for better programs (activities).
Click here to read part 2 of this article, "The Seven Behaviors of Highly Successful Athletes"
About The Author:
Charles Staley, B.Sc., MSS: His colleagues call him an iconoclast, a visionary, a rule-breaker. His clients call him “The Secret Weapon” for his ability to see what other coaches miss. Charles calls himself a “geek” who struggled in Phys Ed throughout school. Whatever you call him, Charles' methods are ahead of their time and quickly produce serious results. His counter-intuitive approach and self-effacing demeanor have lead to appearances on NBC’s The TODAY Show and The CBS Early Show. Find Charles online at http://www.CharlesStaley.com