Goal Setting

Common Beginner Mistakes - Part 3

Part 3 of the "Common Beginner Mistakes" series is underway!  Like all the great series' out there (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Star Wars...), it's important that you check out each and every single one.  Take a look back at Part 1 and Part 2.  I'm sure you'll find a hidden gem or two in there that will help you make better progress in the weight room. As you may know, I'm a creature of habit.  I tend to order the same meal from Taco Bell (6 crunch tacos), dry my body off in the same sequence after taking a shower (I know... I'm weird), and I always choose the color blue while playing Settlers of Catan. With that, let's check out a couple of videos of incredible feats of strength.

Mistake #7 - Program Hopping

"Programs Hoppers" are a severe annoyance to all experienced strength and conditioning coaches out.  They typically suffer from a mild case of ADD, commitment issues, and a severe lack of gains.  These individuals can often be seen at your local Crossfit gym, never performing the same workout twice.  These people need a lesson in the mechanisms of musculoskeletal adaptation.  Mentioned in part 2, a major principle behind strength training is called the SAID principle.  This states that you body will form Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands.  In other words, your body will adapt to the stimulus that you apply to it, HOWEVER, it's critically important that you apply the stimulus for a sufficient period of time. If you're constantly changing the stimulus, the training effect will be negligible, and your body won't experience enough of the same stress to adapt and grow stronger.

This is why most of the established training programs are designed in blocks.  The exercise selection inside of a single block is typically static, and each block typically lasts 3-4 weeks.  This way your body has enough time to experience and adapt to the method of training.  Now, I'm not advocating doing the same exact thing for 3 weeks straight.  Another important principle of strength training is termed the Repeated Bout Effect.  This principle states that as you apply a stimulus and your body recovers and adapts to it, the same stimulus will not elicit an equal amount of adaptation.  Your body experiences a point of diminishing returns, and this is the reason we apply progressive overload and increase the weight on the bar over time.  In this way, we're applying a slightly greater stimulus, but maintaining the movement and allowing our body to adapt to greater and greater amounts of the same stress, and grow stronger because of it.  Here at SAPT, we program our clients in 4 week blocks, increasing volume over time, which in turn elicits progressive and consistent adaptation.

Mistake #8 - Sticking to the Same Program Too Long

Now, this may seem a bit contradictory to our previous point, but hear me out.  I touched briefly on the Repeated Bout Effect above, and this point of diminishing returns applies to whole strength programs/methods of training as well. Eventually, if you continue to do the same thing over and over and over again, you'll reach a point where you just aren't making measurable amounts of progress.  Once this occurs, you need to change the stimulus that you're applying to your body.  This doesn't mean do 1 week of 5/3/1, 2 weeks of the Cube Method, and follow it us with another week of Starting Strength.  You need to stick to a program to actually elicit the adaptation you are trying to achieve, and then mix it up and change the program once you've gotten all that you can from it.

This is a tricky concept, but in reality, you should be grateful for these training principles!  They allow you to gain valuable training experience.  All these programs are created using different training philosophies.  They utilize different methods of manipulating volume over time to elicit strength gains.  We're all unique human beings, and, because of this, we respond to stimuli in different ways and to different degrees.  Some people respond better to high frequency training with low to moderate intensity loads, while others adapt more efficiently to lower volume, high intensity training plans.  You may not respond to a training program in the same exact manner as your best friend, and you also may not adapt as well the second time you perform a program.  As you become more and more experience in strength training, you'll discover what works best for you.  You'll discover the style of training that meshes with your personality, lifestyle, and preferences, and, with a little bit of patience, you'll develop a system of eliciting strength gains progressively.

Spurs Seven Virtues

Today we have a fantastic guest post brought to you by mental coach, Brian Levenson. Brian is a phenomenal coach who has helped/is currently helping countless different people from all walks of life to improve their mental game. He primarily works with athletes ranging from the youth to the professional level, but he also mentors business owners and even Jedi Masters, too. I think you'll really enjoy his post for today.

Spurs Seven Virtues

It’s been a week since the San Antonio Spurs were crowned champions of the NBA.  Since then, they have been celebrated as one of the best, most selfless teams in history.  Personally, I have never cheered for a team whom I had no allegiance/ties to, like I did for the 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs.  It wasn’t that I fell in love with the way one guy played, or marveled at the sheer talent of the players on the floor, instead I found myself grossly enamored with seven virtues that the team possessed.  As I dissect each virtue, think about your organization and how you may benefit from the Spurs way.

Virtue #1:  Can>Can’t

Of all the people in the Spurs organization, RC Buford may be the most underrated.  Buford is the architect behind a roster chalk full of what ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy called “heart guys”.  They are guys who are willing to dive on the floor for loose balls, take a charge, and be gritty enough to keep playing hard even when they are struggling.  When selecting those “heart” players the Spurs choose to look at what guys can do rather than what they can’t do.  As Buford reflects in this article about their draft process: “We get everybody in a room, and ask each other, ‘What can we do to help this player?’”  This not only crystallizes their decision making process, as they better understand a player’s potential, but it also helps them create an action plan to give that player the best opportunity for success.

Take a player like Kawhi Leonard, the recent MVP of the NBA finals, who was passed up by all the teams in the lottery, selected by Indiana at 15, and then had his rights traded to the Spurs.  The biggest knock on Leonard was that he couldn’t shoot.

From the well-respected NBA draft website, Draftexpress:

“Leonard is not only an average ball-handler, but he also struggles to make shots consistently from beyond the arc. His 0.743 points per shots on jumpers ranks 16th of 17 in the class, where he shot an abysmal 31% from the field. His struggles extend both to his catch and shoot jumpers (32%) and pull-ups (28%).”

But teams were forgetting one of the most important characteristics to acquire a new skill, Leonard was coachable; and the Spurs had just the coach to help him acquire the skill of shooting.  Chip Engelland is considered one of the best shooting coaches in the NBA, and he happens to be an assistant coach with the Spurs.  The Spurs paired Leonard with Engelland and the rest is history.

Spurs take can’t and turn it into can.

Virtue #2:  Honesty

Each player on the Spurs knows their strengths and weaknesses.  They are honest with who they are and are open to feedback from their lead general, Coach Pop.  Pop’s brutal honesty led to him writing, “DNP-Old” last year to describe why Tim Duncan wasn’t playing, admitting that during timeouts sometimes “I’ll say I’ve got nothing” as his players look to him for answers, and is part of the reason that he has the most brief in-game interviews with side-line reporters.

The honesty that Pop displays leads to accountability, which enables each Spur to get the most out of their potential.

Virtue #3:  Empowerment

The Spurs empower each of their players to step up and produce.  This was most evident in last year’s NBA Finals when Tony Parker walked up to Pop during a timeout to interject his opinion.  Pop gave Parker the keys to the timeout huddle and Parker started explaining to his teammates what he saw.  That empowerment to step up and make a difference is a hallmark of every player on the Spurs.

Pop explained the interaction in a press conference, "That’s not a rarity. While the coaches are out talking on the court, we do that so that the players can communicate and talk to each other because most of the time they know more what's going on than we do.  There will be times when Timmy will sit in that chair or Manu will sit there or Tony will sit there and they'll talk to the team if they have something they want to get across. That's just how we do things.”

Spurs don’t put people in their place; instead they empower each other.

Virtue #4:  Share

San Antonio had 1771 passes in the NBA finals compared to Miami’s 1299.  That’s 472 more passes, or about 95 more passes per game.  Pretty remarkable.  Pop constantly tells his guys that the ball can’t “stick”; meaning ball movement is paramount.

The players bought in to the sharing concept as well.  As Manu Ginobili pointed out in this article, “I think it can potentially be a game-changer, for other teams that don’t have as much talent to give (an individual) the ball and let them create like Kobe or Durant or LeBron. It kind of showed the way in the sense … if you don’t have as much talent, you still can do it. You can move the ball and put a lot of pressure on the defense."

Then, there are the salaries that each player makes.  The Spurs "big 3" all took less money to stay in San Antonio.  Parker made 12.5 million, Duncan made 10.4 million, and Ginobili made 7 million.  Those salaries combined are less than what Kobe Bryant’s salary was this year (30.5 million).

Sharing is a non-negotiable for Spurs.

Virtue #5:  Process Focus

“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”  --Jacob Riis

That quote has been at the heart of the Spurs culture for years.  “Pound the Rock” has become the rallying cry for one of the best organizations in sports.  It’s become so popular that there is even a popular blog named after it (www.poundingtherock.com).  It didn’t matter if they had lost game 2, or were down 22-6 in game 5, the Spurs were always focused on executing and playing the right way for 48 minutes.

Regardless of the score, Spurs continue to chisel away at their opponents until eventually they break.

Virtue #6:  Something to Prove

The Spurs are filled with guys who have had something to prove throughout their career.  They are an eclectic, diverse group, highlighted by 8 international players, which led the league in that category.  Each player on the Spurs has had a different journey to the NBA, but only one of them (Duncan) was selected in the NBA Draft lottery.  The rest of the team is filled with late 1st and 2nd round picks, guys who were passed over because of weaknesses.  They are a resilient, gritty group of guys who constantly have to prove they belong.

Nothing has been given to the Spurs and that’s why so much has been earned.

Virtue #7:  Best Friends

Teams often talk about how there needs to be a mutual respect amongst each other, but that they don’t have to be “best friends” with their teammates.  Yet, as Patty Mills grabbed the microphone during the Spurs celebration ceremony, he introduced his teammates as his “best friends”.    He went on to talk about each and every player and how they brought something unique to the team.  He was genuine, funny, and comfortable talking about the guys he sweated with all year.  He mentioned their quirks, how they were better people than players, and how much he loved each of them.

It’s not good enough to just be a teammate, Spurs must love each other like best friends.

The word “virtue” has many different definitions, but the one that sticks out is “a good or useful quality or thing.”  When it comes to the 2014 NBA Champions there are plenty of good qualities to go around, and those champion qualities should be celebrated, admired, and duplicated by us all.

Planning Your Fitness Goals

Pop quiz! Who said the following quotes? -Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a seed a long time ago.

-A goal without a plan is just a wish.

-Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

-Man does not plan to fail, he just fails to plan.

-Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

The theme of the day (if you haven't guessed) is an often overlooked aspect of the fitness game: Planning. Coming up with a solid training program for long term success is a key component to reaching your goals.  Let's enlist the wisdom of some historical individuals to discuss the importance of planning for your fitness endeavors.

Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a seed a long time ago.

Answer: Warren Buffet

If fitness is your goal, understand that it is not an overnight pursuit. Developing a strong, fit, athletic body requires a ton of time and patience. If you haven’t started a training program yet, “plant the seed” now! The longer you delay starting on a training regimen, the longer it will take to reach your goals.

If you are a complete novice to training, get some help from a professional to put together a well thought-out plan individualized to your goals, your current levels of fitness, and any limitations you may have.

Those that are completely new to training can't just jump in to a program used by weight room veterans.  A necessary preliminary phase of "developmental" training must be administered to ensure that the trainee learns how to train.  During this phase the intensity will be low, the volume will be moderate, and the primary focus is to become proficient at the basic movement patterns.

A similar approach is often used for incoming freshmen in collegiate sports.  It cannot be assumed that they can just pick up a senior's lifting sheet and follow along.  During a developmental phase we will learn how to stabilize the spine, squat, hinge, press, and pull in multiple planes of motion.

This phase cannot be rushed.  It is always best to prolong a developmental phase and ensure that the trainee moves correctly before bumping up the intensity or volume.  Don't be too hasty to rush into heavier weights before proper movement patterns are completely ingrained.  The consequences may be severe.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

Answer: Antoine de Saint-Expurey

What’s your goal? Do you want to be big and strong? Do you want to lose weight? Improve body composition? Destroy your opponents this coming season?

Define and specify your goal, and draw a road map of how you’re going to make it happen. You’re going to have to answer several questions, including but not limited to:

-How many days a week can/will you train? -Which exercises will help you toward your goal? -Which exercises can you do safely? -How will you track progress? -How many weeks/months/years do you have?

Write out your plan of attack and visualize the process toward your goal.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Answer: Abraham Lincoln, CSCS

My man Abe was obviously using this next-level metaphor to allude to the importance of taking the necessary amount of time to build the foundation and base for your fitness goals.

Often labeled “accumulation” stages of training, these initial stages of the training cycle utilize higher volumes and lower intensities, typically in the 50-75% ranges of your 1 rep maximum. These phases have been successfully used to improve work capacity, cardiovascular endurance, ability to recover, hypertrophy, and mobility.

Although these accumulation phases do not employ the use of super heavy weights, these phases “sharpen the axe” so to speak, and make your next stages of training more efficient.

Man does not plan to fail, he just fails to plan.

Answer: Frederick Douglas

Freddy D hits us with the truth with this one. Maybe summer came too early and you aren’t as ripped as you wanted to be. In fact you’re not ripped at all. Were you training consistently year round? Did you eat right even during the wintertime when abs are overrated?

Or maybe you expected to come into the next sports season stronger with some more size, but you show up on the first day underweight. Did you take advantage of the off-season to beef up and train hard?

You should always be thinking ahead in terms of preparation.  If you want to improve performance for the next season, understand that the off-season starts the day after your last game or meet.  Spend those precious weeks wisely.

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

Answer: Iron Mike Tyson

Plan on being flexible! Things will not always go “according to plan” and there will be sudden obstacles that you will have to face. You might get sidelined with the flu, or you might need to take a two-week business trip in the middle of your training cycle. You might even get injured. It happens, and you have to be able to work around it and adjust your plan. Stay calm and continue working towards greatness.

Bonus Link

For a very in-depth overview of detailed planning, check out this legendary two-part series by Dave Tate.

The Periodization Bible

Maximize Each Workout: 3 Practical Tips on Mindset

The mindset associated with any training plan is really what makes the difference in achieving your goals. Sets, reps, exotic exercise selection, equipment, etc. doesn't make a drop of difference if you are only 60% engaged, focused, and mentally committed. Here are 3 practical tips to get you in the zone - and keep you there - for your next workout session:

 

  • Music: I think everybody knows about this one, but it bears repeating. Music is so powerful because it has the ability to change your mindset and push you in the direction you want to go or need to be for a great training session.
  • Environment: Make sure your training environment is conducive to you achieving (and be able to focus on achieving) your goals. Constantly getting stopped by other gym members to chat? Always feeling ashamed of making any noise whatsoever? Tired of being harassed for breaking out chalk? Well, all these are signs that you may need to reconsider your training environment and get into one that supports your focus and goals.
Planet Fitness Lunk Alarm

Alright, you've got at least two of three tips that you can implement TODAY to get your training dialed up and instantly more productive.