By: Adam Nelson, SPARC Director
Every year I receive hundreds of emails, tweets, and fb messages asking for help. The messages range from the rather benign “What was your best bench?” to the most common plea “Can you send me a program?” or “What do you do to prepare for a major competition?” I do my best to respond to these questions, but sometimes it’s overwhelming and sometimes a bit frustrating that given the vast amount of knowledge out there about training that there’s still so much uncertainty about how to move forward.The reality is that there’s no right way. Wherever you decide to start will be very different from where you finish. That said, I’d like to address the following:
1) The Bench Press – Ahhh…the glory lift. For some reason pop culture ranks this lift as the defining lift of manhood. Certainly when I started training in 1987 I spent a lot of time developing this lift. And I’m not going to tell you that it wasn’t worth it or that it was a waste of time. I got very strong. As a 12-year-old I benched 225lbs and as a 17-year-old I bench 465lbs. I, also, did a 225 rep test for 42 reps my senior year in high school.
However, I would argue that it wasn’t excelling at the bench press that made me a very good high school athlete (All-state in 3 sports and All-American in 1). It was the fact that I spent two to three hours, 5-days a week training from the time football ended in 8th grade until the time I graduate high school. That means I spent almost 4000 hours under a bar or in the weight room from 8th grade to 12th grade. When you put that much time in under the bar, you’re going to see results.
That said, the bench press is a crutch for many athletes. It’s not the ultimate exercise and it probably could stand to be knocked down a few positions on the upper body heirarchy of exercises. There’s not a good transfer of strength from the weight room to the playing fields. So PLEASE bench press as much as you NEED to and not because you have to. If you want to get strong, reserve more time for overhead pressing.
2) Can you send me a program? Sure, but I won’t. Not because I don’t want to share or help, but because I don’t know anything about you. If you’re looking online for a program you’re probably still doing general preparation. This is an important time in your development, but don’t over-think it. Just find a workout you like and can do in your weight room. If you’re beyond general prep and still need a workout, there are a lot of great programs for sale online. Some of my favorites are: The Juggernaut by Chad Wesley Smith, Training Lab by Matt Vincent, The Tiered System by Joe Kenn. I know we all hate to spend money on workouts, but you’re not buying a workout. You’re buying a discounted consulting package that will save you a lot of time and energy and, probably, a few trips to the emergency room. Think about it this way: you spend $50 to have someone else change your oil, so you don’t have to do it (or because you can’t) in order to keep your car running properly. Are you telling me you won’t spend a little money to do the same for your body? That’s just misplaced priorities. That said, BEWARE of any pre-made program. Start by doing it as prescribed, but don’t be afraid to deviate from text.
Ahhh…and Crossfit. I love crossfit workouts. They appeal to my inner manhood by throwing down a physical challenge. The problem is that many crossfit workouts or misnamed. They aren’t workouts; they are conditioning challenges. In some ways they’re not much different than the obstacle course races. They are meant to create a sense of accomplishment and to build a community around collective suffering. Some boxes may offer “sports” training, but many of these programs aren’t led by certified strength and conditioning coaches. And there is a difference. Unfortunately, most of your standard certifications teach specific movements and are concluded by a workout that’s totally inappropriate for almost all athletes. These certifications teach movement, but don’t teach the instructors how to program. This is like giving a 10-year-old driving lessons for a weekend and, then, sending him home with a Big Rig truck to drive on the open road.
So “Can you Send me a program?” I’ve referred you to some great resources of information that regularly post workouts. If you want a program specifically designed for you, I’ll be more than happy to write one. That won’t be free, but I can promise you it will increase your chances of success on the field. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like your own program.
3) What do you do to prepare for major competitions? You have to train your brain as much as you train your body. You have to make time to visualize your competitive environment and see yourself excelling in that environment. Think about it this way. For every one throw you actually take, you can take 100 more mental reps. Those mental reps count a lot and they don’t have any physical recovery time.
No joke. I’ve tried dozens of mental training tactics. The reality is that it doesn’t matter how strong you are or how far you can throw or how fast you can run if you can’t do it when you need to. I’ve seen plenty practice and warm-up all-pros in my life. What separates champions from everyone else? The mental game. Don’t be a mental midget. Train your mind with the same focus as you train your body.
SO, that concludes my little blog post today. Good luck! And don’t be afraid to ask for some help. The worst that can happen is that someone says no.