Tuesday, June 22, 2010

MSU Programming - Part 7 - Avoiding Weaknesses

For all parts of this ongoing series, click here.

Weakness is an ugly word. I'm guessing merely reading the title of this post causes some discomfort. The title serves as a reminder that we are not as strong and able in everything. It causes us to look into those areas at which we suck...what I affectionately call "my goats."

Brian M has an inspiring attitude about this subject. He constantly searches out for what he calls "chinks in the armor." He's quite the anomaly. Instead of ignoring weaknesses, Brian is in a perpetual state of development-- building more skills and abilities in what he believes to be his current weaknesses. Likewise, CrossFit Coach Greg Glassman used to say that, given two hours, he could find the weakness in any top tier (Olympic or professional) athlete.

As much as we ponder DynaMax's ten attributes of physical fitness (strength, stamina, cardio-respiratory endurance, speed, power, flexibility, accuracy, coordination, agility, and balance), I believe there will never be agreement about which recipe of each creates the "most fit" person. Some argue strength is most fundamental. Others pick endurance. While few pick agility or balance, those two are absolutely necessary for some sports or activities. As you look at the list of ten attributes, which one are you avoiding because you aren't as good at it?

For those who are really, really great at some physical task or sport, there is an even higher chance of you really, really sucking at something else! In the functional fitness world, this is categorized as an imbalance. Let's say for example that one is extremely strong. Let's give this athlete a CrossFit Total (a composite measurement of pure strength) of 1100+ pounds. The time and effort needed in training to reach and sustain an 1100CFT is considerable. So it also most likely relates to decreases in time spent training other movements or aspects of fitness. What are the chances that this strong person also has a high output for stamina or cardio-respiratory endurance? And if he does, what about coordination or accuracy? The more someone excels in one or few categories, the higher probability of deficiencies in others.

Other than the above philosophical attributes, there are specific movements that are neglected. For me, it wasn't just one exercise....more like a laundry list. Each was something that was either uncomfortable or made me look at my weakness straight-on: lunges, pullups, ring dips, snatches, double-unders, burpees. I made a commitment to face each through specific skill work in these areas. Little by little, I began to "suck less" as these movements surfaced in my program. I ask again: what movements do you consistently substitute out of your workouts?

Of course critics to my argument here will say this: "I don't have the same definition of fitness as you," or, "I believe flexibility (or other attribute) to be more important to overall health than power (or other attribute)." I concede that there will never be consensus over this. And I actually embrace the differences in beliefs. It's through talking out the differences that I have learned the most about fitness. However....

I believe the DynaMax list to be near-exhaustive. There must be at least a little smidgen of training and practice in each of those ten categories. I am committed to learning as many movements of Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics, sprinting, jump roping, carrying, throwing, or whatever as possible. I follow another coach's program so I don't cater to my own strengths, and more importantly....so I don't ignore my weaknesses. When DUs come up in a workout paired with heavy OHS.....yeah, that will suck for me. But I will do it. And I will do it because I need to be doing it. And because I know I would never pick those two "goats" for myself.

I encourage everyone to find what is lacking in their MSU program and add it.... whether it be 5x3 or 7x1 strength work, or 20-minute gymnastics MetCons. Make a list. Not just a mental one, but a real list. One that includes your biggest goats, and the attributes of fitness that you need to work on. Identify the chinks in your armor, then decide on a path to fill in the gaps!

Here is my list:
OHS, MUs, weighted pullups, snatch balance, flexibility, grip strength.

Now it's your turn. Post to comments.

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