Performance in anything requires physical ability as well as skill and experience in that particular movement. It would be enough to say that squats develop really strong and conditioned leg and hip muscles but the fact that the pattern of squatting so closely resembles athletic and real-world movement patterns gives it a quality that few other movements have. It’s no accident that squatting is a key feature in all athletic programs, from American football and soccer to track and field events. Putting a weight on your back, sitting down and standing back up creates physical adaptations that transfer over to just about every physical activity you can think of.
Now, there might be valid arguments for favoring more specialized variations when it comes to peaking in a specific event. Specificity advocates have cited quarter squats as being more specific (and, thus, more useful) to sprinting and jumping and I’m inclined to say that they aren’t exactly wrong. But as a base standard for physical development, getting comfortable sitting down into a parallel squat will lead to a baseline of strength, size and coordination that will provide a substantial platform for more specialized training in any particular sport.
The muscles are responsible for most of the power that extends the hip. If you are standing up, running, jumping or, most importantly, deadlifting, your glutes will be the difference between success and embarrassment.
Serious training builds up fatigue. It’s a fact. If you’re training hard enough to get stronger then you’re training hard enough to dig yourself into a recovery hole. Now, there are a lot of ways to work around that which might include varying the exercises over time, dropping volume as the weights get heavier or moving into different phases of training. But when it comes to making your training sustainable in the short-term, deloads are one of the easiest and most proven methods for making your training sustainable.
While not defined in most textbooks, deloading is talked widely about in general training culture and has been written about extensively. It generally means a deliberate reduction in training stress that is done to allow for recovery. So as multiple weeks of hard training compound togethe,r a single week of reduced training stress will allow the lifter to bounce back so that they can continue to hammer the iron once again. This can be done by reducing volume, intensity, effort, aggression, changing the exercise or doing some combination of all..
Weak Point: An obvious imbalance that creates an inefficiency, one factor that is single-handedly limiting progress, can cause lifts to stall at particular points of the movement) or can cause deviation in setup that leads to a missed rep.
It’s become trendy to focus on weak point targeting as a primary means of driving your numbers up. The problem is that this approach is not as well suited for newer or less experienced lifters. When you are unfamiliar with the lifts, untrained and lacking in muscle mass and basic coordination, everything is weak which means that there is no justification in isolating a single piece of the puzzle. At this stage, your best bet is to focus on the fundamentals and use broader, non-specific training approaches to develop a well-rounded and symmetrical base that will contribute to optimal efficiency as you become more specialized.
We scratched the surface on specialization last time, breaking down the difference between developmental and specialized phases of training. It’s an important concept to get down if you want to actually have a handle on your training but, unfortunately, is misunderstood by many competitive hopefuls.
Specialization means high development in one skill. You can’t specialize in everything so there’s an implication of priority; i.e. you specialize in one thing at the expense of others.
The World’s Strongest Man contest started in the 1970s as a television exhibition on ABC. The appeal of it was to take a group of the strongest men in the world from a variety of different backgrounds: bodybuilding, powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, track and field, football, wrestling and so on) and expose them to a variety of tests to see who actually was the strongest. It’s an interesting premise that hinged on the athletes not knowing what was coming next. This was ‘every-day strength’.
However, the sport of strong man has since evolved to something far from what the original creators intended. Today, strongman athletes are not coming out cold in trying to wing it with unfamiliar events using whatever physical qualities they happened to develop by doing something else entirely. To be competitive in today’s field you have to be practiced and peaked with the same deliberate precision of any powerlifter or weightlifter (lest you give up the margins to another competitor who was). That means you have to be specialized.
Variety is a huge component of any strength program. You can’t progress long-term unless you are continuously trying to make changes for how much work you’re doing, what type of work you’re doing and how hard you’re doing it. The earliest advice anybody gives when they’re brand new to the gym is that at some point they’re going to have to switch it up. For those who have long-term performance-based goals it’s imperative that you understand what that actually means.
We know the diminished returns eventually sets in, meaning the same type of training stops yielding results. So we have to make changes to avoid that. But we also know that training, if broken into different chunks, can potentiate or improve the training effect from one block into the next. So we can make changes to build off what we did in the block before.
That’s a powerful 1-2 punch in training; giving yourself a break from the same old thing so that your body might start adapting again to a new stimulus while also arranging that stimulus in a way that points to a dedicated contest performance. No matter how different the programs appear (concurrent periodization like Westside, linear periodization like the Juggernaut method, forever program LPS like 531 or starting strength), virtually all competitive strength programs work by exploiting this in one way or another.
You just have to know what to look for to see it.
If you have a primary goal that you’re training for, whether it’s running a marathon, acing a math test or training for a powerlifting meet, the total successful performance can be broken into smaller constituent parts. This is true for everything.
Success in test-taking, for instance,may benefit from focusing on smaller bit, like reading comprehension, attention span, understanding of the subject or your ability to utilize mnemonic tools. Think of these smaller qualities as the base of a successful performance plan.
I’ve written a lot over the years on the topic of posture in the deadlift and Lord knows that there is a heap of blog posts and Youtube video out there as well. Not surprisingly, there’s quite a bit of controversy on the subject. Discussion ranges from what is most optimal for moving the most weight to what is more likely to get you injured to what just looks better (we are all so vain).
My insight is from the perspecitve of someone who has spent years struggling to iron out his deadlift, enduring pain, injury and setbacks and taking plenty of notes from others in the process. I’ve had a decade’s worth of stagnation, including minor aches and pains to major events that kept me out of the gym for weeks on end. For what should have been my most formative years, my pull was much like a truck stuck in the mud and getting it out took a level of planning and attention that, frankly, few have to engage in.
I self-published my first book, Base Strength, at the end of 2020. I’ve since put out two follow ups (Peak Strength and Superior Deadlift) and plan on putting out many more so long as there still exists an audience to read them.
It’s a weird thing, concluding a year on a productive note. I mean, December brings talks of reflection and resolution, making it a reliable piece of my annual angst-filled productivity cycle. The year starts with hope of big things to come and that leads to ambition in the size and scope of life projects. Obstacles predictably manifest and plans get scrapped (or forgotten) and the inevitable result is a long wait for January so that I can resolve to have a new year free of the same stagnation, frustration and disillusionment that concluded all the others.
KEEP IT SIMPLE. If you are short on time, effort or focus, the one constant you can plan on is inconsistency. Usually a frustrating feature of a life crammed to the brim with obligations and distractions, inconsistency usually leads people to live in ‘reactive’ mode, where they write down their best laid plans and wait for things to go wrong. Something as simple as following a workout schedule feels like juggling fine china.
Just know that inconsistency can be your friend if you know how to accommodate it.
Corey ‘Swede’ Burns’ is well known in the annals of internet strength culture, having been a regular on various EliteFTS platforms and voted 2016 “Coach of the Year” (though, while mentioned in all of his bios, I can’t find the details about it anywhere).
5th Set is Swede’s strength program e-book that follows in the steps of 5/3/1, Juggernaut and the Cube Method. Like those predecessors, the book outlines it’s unique prescription for organizing the squat, bench and deadlift along with giving a concrete progression pattern for advancing weight and work over time.