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Keeping Balance in Training: Aka, Doing What You Suck At

When you have a few years of training under your belt, you will realize what you like to do and what you should do. For me personally, I always loved to lift heavy and do hypertrophy work. Nothing like getting a pump to make you think you’re jacked, then looking in the mirror realizing you’re still 300 pounds with a nice keg around your waist. However, strength and muscle mass are important, these were not my issues. To continue to work on these strengths was a mistake, I should have taken a step back and worked on the things that I should have done but did not want to.

There are a few elements of a training plan that you should keep in balance: strength training, hypertrophy training, conditioning/work capacity, sport specific training and recovery work which includes mobility, nutrition, and sleep. While it is important to keep a balance between these activities it is also important to remember what sport or goal you have. A distance runner doesn’t need the same level of strength work as a shot putter, and the opposite is true for conditioning work. However if the shot-putter can’t walk across the parking lot without a back pump and getting out of breath, balance is not being addressed. You see, it is very dependent on what sport or goal you are trying to maximize.

Want vs Need

You always want to work on your strengths but you will only maximize your potential if you work on your needs. To go back to me in college I should have addressed my recovery work (specifically the number of pints I drank) and conditioning/work capacity. However, I didn’t want to work on these things because of the discipline and lifestyle changes that were necessary. So, what did I do? Like most people I convinced myself that I didn’t need to work on these qualities so I could sleep easier at night and not feel bad about going to the bar. However, looking back, I realize I didn’t maximize my potential.

Recovery work would have been easy to address. I simply just needed to clean up my diet. I didn’t need to be 7% body fat, so it wouldn’t have taken that much effort. Trimming off 20 pounds could have helped me move better and recover at a better rate. I was also surrounded by many great strength coaches. Asking one of them for a mobility program and doing it would have cleaned up that issue. Having the discipline to say no to going to a bar occasionally would have solved my poor sleep habits. I get it. It’s still college. If you don’t want to be the guy with no experiences besides sports in college, go out and have your fun. But if you want to be the best you can be, you need to make choices that reflect that.

The last area I could have cleaned up was the conditioning portion. Most would say that would just help you lose weight and you should only use it for that. However, having a base of conditioning and work capacity (different for every sport) not only helps recovery but also being able to do more work. Yes, I threw the shot-put I didn’t need to turn into a burpee queen or go run miles. However, adding in a few short intervals sessions a week would not only boost recovery but allow me to do more volume. I would have recovered faster between sets and in between workouts allowing me to either have shorted training session, a higher training frequency or doing more volume in the same amount of time. Instead of getting tired at 80 throws, I would have gotten tired at 120 throws. 40 more throws a session over a year is a significantly higher training volume. Remember, the more you do something the better you will get at it. Yes, it’s that simple sometimes.

You may be asking, “How do I know what I need?”. You can either take an honest evaluation of your training. This is best done by looking at what the best athletes can do in your sport and training to be like them. If every NFL lineman can bench press 225 20 times then you will need to do this. Or if every centerfielder in the MLB is under 15% body fat, know that you are not the exception. You can take this further to specific exercises, If you’re benching 405 and hitting the pec deck everyday as a pitcher and can’t do a pull-up you my friend are an idiot. However, this would give me a good chuckle and I would get pretty fired up by it.

However, it can be difficult to evaluate yourself and even harder to write your own programs that address your balance issues. Either ask a teammate or even better have a qualified coach, who should have some type of assessment even if it’s just a phone call. From there, pay them to write you a program, and follow through with it even if it’s difficult.

Having someone write you a program is crucial for development: not only will you work on balance in your training but you will also have to do things you would never challenge yourself with. Also, no one is an expert in everything me included. These reasons are why I follow MobilityWod by Kelly Starrett and have a local coach write me a conditioning program. I hate doing these things, and I would never do them if I weren’t paying someone to write me the programming.

Balance is essential in training to maximize your potential. However, don’t take it too far. Working on your 5K C2 rower time when you are a baseball player is a waste of time and energy. However, having some level of conditioning is important. Analyze your training, find what you’re missing, and invest your resources to get someone to write you a program. The easy part is now done. All you now must do is put in the work.

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