I hope this post finds you healthy, wealthy, and wise. And I also hope your training is going fantastic as we cruise into summer. This month at TLA I’m focusing on Peak Performance Training, and it is the theme for our weekly online MasterClass Webinar series. This week, I’d like to offer some suggestions that can help you to get a more personalized FIT out of your fitness training. Enhancing sports performance, getting ripped and jacked, and crushing goals is a whole lot easier when your training matches up with your body and goals.
Let’s frame this up by giving consideration to a few key points.
KNOW YOUR STRENGTHS
Your strengths are your natural gifts in the world of human performance, and everybody shines in one or several categories. These are your go-to means of output and as a Lifetime Athlete, you probably know what you are really good at and find easy. While many sophisticated tests exist, you can probably just reflect and assess your abilities. These are the requisite physical capacities of the human beast.
- Strength: This is max force, such as the 1RM (repetition maximum) lift and similar measures. In some cases we can also consider # reps at a % of a 1RM, if we have concerns with safety regarding loading or want to bleed this metric into a strength-endurance measure.
- Speed: The maximum velocity that you can attain over 6-7 seconds or less is absolute speed. Relative speed would be max velocity over a given distance, such as a 1k row, 40k bike, or 10k run.
- Power: Total work performed (Force x Distance) divided by Time represents power. How fast you can push a 200# sled over a set 30-yard distance is one example. Power is the simultaneous expression of speed and strength. It’s also the ability to sustain VO2max or high wattage over time in many applications, such as on a bicycle.
- Agility: This is the ability to move gracefully and athletically. It encompasses mobility, stability, and kinesthetic awareness. Owning the shape you create with your body, the positions you put it in, and the fluidity with which you move is agility. It requires a requisite amount of flexibility, but is much more than just range of motion alone.
- Endurance: Fatigue resistance, both in terms of aerobic capacity, as well as muscular effort, is the ability to sustain submaximal efforts for reasonably long durations without exhaustion.
RECOGNIZE YOUR WEAKNESSES
For most of us, there will be one or two of those 5 categories listed above that might lag a bit behind the others. That’s OK…it’s natural and driven by genetics. But the key is to know where your deficiencies lie, and keep them in mind. I like to have my athletes self-rate in each of the 5 categories using a 1=poor, 2=fair, and 3=good rating. Then, if we identify a “1” such as having poor endurance, for example…we can ask a couple of questions objectively. First, “Is it bad enough that it is endangering my long-term health?” In the case of endurance there is strong data to suggest that a baseline level of cardiovascular fitness is essential for wellness. Next, “Does this deficit affect my performance in my chosen sport?” If said athlete is a powerlifter, then the answer is probably either “no” or “not very much.” So, we’d probably do just enough cardio to ensure good overall health in that athlete, but we’d never worry about trying to turn him into an endurance junkie. That would be counterproductive for performance and probably be working against his natural body type. Context…always context.
ADDRESS YOUR MOVEMENT DYSFUNCTIONS
This is where you might want to work with a physical therapist. If you can detect problems with your movement patterns that are 1.) detracting from your performance or 2.) contributing to increased injury risk, you would be well-served to fix these concerns. But keep in mind that almost every human has asymmetry somewhere, and it’s not always necessary or even possible to correct. Big rocks here. A professional can help you see if you have a wonky issue, such as poor trunk recruitment in throwing or swinging that can be tuned up. Of if you have a problem loading a certain joint, limb, or pattern, and it’s causing pain and increased wear and tear, it’s good to go after that. Keep the mechanical aspect of your body tuned up just like you do with your vehicle.
RESPECT YOUR INJURY HISTORY
Life happens…and injuries happen to Lifetime Athletes. Sometimes you’ll have a condition that even the best surgery, rehab, and nutrition can’t make completely whole again. In cases like this, make sure you select exercises that help to support good function but also that don’t aggravate your issue. You may even need to consider choosing different sports in some cases. Your body will tell you what you can get away with, and you should listen. Otherwise, you outlive your joints, and that is not the objective for a Lifetime Athlete.
PRIORITIZE YOUR GOAL(s)
As hilarious as it sounds, a lot of clients will say “I want to be strong, fast, powerful, agile, durable, shredded, and energetic.” Most of the time I say “Well, that can be done…as long as we are patient, intelligent, and reasonable in this journey.” Then they’ll say “I want to run a sub-3 hour marathon, have a triple bodyweight squat, be able to throw a 90 mph fastball, and swim the English Channel.” And invariably my response is “Pick One!” All-around conditioning is great, and it’s something I prefer personally, but when you want to max out performance, having only one goal to focus upon, and around which to build your training, is the way to go.
LEVERAGE YOUR TRAINING
Now that you have a feel for what your strengths and weaknesses are, how your movement patterns are working, what items your personal injury roster contains, and what is your single most important goal, you can apply all this knowledge to better training. In general, I like to recommend addressing injury, movement, and weakness issues in the off-season, and then progressing to a more dedicated focus on honing strengths as peak season goal-attainment time comes around. More specifically, though, you can choose a sport (probably already have) that lines up best with your natural gifts and you’ll probably have greater ease, enjoyment, and success. But if you love something that is just a tad out of your genetic wheelhouse, you can leverage your self-inventory to train more effectively. This is where a good coach comes in. Working with a coach can help you to design a training plan and workouts that use science and experience to extract the desired capabilities out of your body with less risk of breakdown. You can train a powerlifter to run a marathon without a string of overuse injuries. You can get a decent deadlift out of a skinny runner without exploding his lumbar spine. And you can help a yogi to sprint a 40-yard dash without tearing several muscles. The key is in understanding how to manipulate the programs to get results and have fun because they honor your inner beast.
I hope you found some of this information insightful and useful. If you’d like to dive deeper into the customization of training, join me for the MasterClass this week (registration open until Tuesday at noon). And if you are interested in other aspects of training, such as exercise sequencing, recovery management, and lifespan adjustments…stay tuned as those topics will be coming up in this month’s content. Thanks for reading!