Weaknesses and Why We Suck at Not Sucking

Today’s Topic: Weaknesses
Goal: Start training them until they aren’t weaknesses anymore–destroy them, exterminate them, make them not exist
How: Developing a plan and as always, mindset

I’m good at the snatch because I have a deep squat and the hip mobility to allow me to get under the bar fast. I can snatch well over my bodyweight. Ironically though, my back squat is my weakest lift.

I’m also good at muscle-ups: I can do 30 in under 5 minutes. Ironically though, my chest doesn’t grow (grrr) and it’s my most underdeveloped body part. So what do I train most often? Yup, muscle-ups and snatches. Why do I do this when it makes more sense to focus on my weaknesses? DAMN GOOD QUESTION!

 Why do we cherry pick so much?

Ask yourself that same question and I bet you will end up with the same head-scratching answer. Yet, we all do it. Why do we cherry pick so much? Maybe it’s easier. Maybe we will feel strong all the time. Maybe it’s ego soothing. Maybe it is more fun. Maybe we want to be that much better so we can impress others. The list goes on. For me, it’s definitely: because it hurts less.

Have you noticed—or is it only me—that when you train things you suck at it just seems to hurt so bad? I haven’t figured out if this is my Ego hurting or my underdeveloped muscles screaming out (probably the Ego).

The irony here is if I train smarter by focusing on my weaknesses, I can improve my strengths as well. By developing my weaknesses, I see improvement in e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Isn’t it ironic? Don’t ya think?

Our weaknesses are often so glaring that improving them tends to have a positive effect on the entire system.

As a new trainee, you need to learn fast the importance of training your weaknesses. Just getting in the gym consistently is your challenge but as time goes on and you improve, you will find yourself favoring your strengths while naturally avoiding your weaknesses. It’s inevitable. Active trainees get this. We know we do it, too. Unfortunately, what we know and what we do are not always equal (ain’t that the freakin truth).

This is a call to action. 

I want you to act, to make a change. I’m planting a seed in your mind in the hope that this idea—weakness training—will pop into your consciousness often enough to annoy the hell out of you until you do something about it. Each time you step in the gym, ask yourself this question: “Am I training a weakness?”

Progress and Tracking

They say what gets measured gets improved. I agree. I suggest you get a WOD journal, or write your workouts in a text doc on your phone. You want to get your mind to fixate on improving your numbers. Get into the constant improvement mindset.

Sure, this is a beat-to-death recommendation that has been made by every fitness guru since Richard Simmons (don’t quote me on that, that may not be true). You’ve heard the importance of tracking your workouts a thousand times. So, why aren’t you doing about it?

Start a workout journal, and make sure you put an emphasis on tracking your weaknesses. By tracking them, you are forced to put numbers to them: sets, reps, weight, etc. This ties something tangible to your weaknesses and it is often the missing link to the typical “Train your weaknesses” suggestion. By introducing numbers you see a clear path for improvement. It becomes much easier than the arbitrary  “work on your weaknesses.” When you have numbers, it’s simple: just improve the numbers!

We all know we should train our weaknesses but how often are we training them? For most, it’s not often. It’s rare that we develop a plan for our weaknesses. We usually just show up at the gym and do a set here or there. Let’s avoid that crap. It’s time to do something about it: put it down on paper, train daily, and integrate it into your program.

*If you have competition goals, weaknesses should be the focus of your training; it should be your gospel.

Classes

Favorite app "Lift"

Favorite app “Lift”

What about training in a class setting? Classes can make weakness training difficult because you have to follow the programming made for everyone. You’ll have to do your best to fit your weakness training in.

If it conflicts with the WOD for the day, you might start looking for excuses to put it off altogether. The more you avoid training your weaknesses, the more likely it will end up another fallen habit (also known as good intention). Figure out when you will spend time training. Then do it. Commit to it.

You must make it a priority  

You must make weakness training a priority. Write it down and make yourself do it. There are many ways to go about the doing, that’s the easy part:

  • You could choose one day a week and completely destroy yourself using only exercises you suck at.
  • You could do a few deliberate sets every workout
  • You could train ONLY your weaknesses every workout for a month before going back to your regular program (a basic form of periodization)

Let’s look at two simple formats you can try. I suggest testing and figuring out what works best for you.

Option #1: Pick two main weaknesses. Mix up rep schemes, weights, and exercises but make it look something like this:

Weakness 1# for  5 sets of 15+ reps as part of your warmup, strength, or cool-down

Weakness 2# for  5 sets of 15+ reps as part of your warmup, strength, or cool-down

Lots and Lots and Lots and Lots of reps is the key here. Most weaknesses stem at the movement level where the body is weak due to flexibility, body type, past injury and so on. Tons of reps focused on super-solid form can help correct this. Start with bodyweight loads, and then progress to light, medium, and heavy loads as you are able to. Add weight only when your form improves.

Your weakness training doesn’t have to infringe on your daily workout. Just treat it as a warm-up or skill work on days that it could get in the way of your program

Option #2: Make a list of 5-10 weakness-based exercises and do them as your warmup or as a WOD as often as possible.

A warmup or WOD could look something like this:

  • 3 rounds of 15 reps:
  • Air Squat
  • Pistol
  • Push-up
  • Dip
  • Strict pull-up
  • Back squat with bar/dowel
  • Overhead squat with bar/dowel

You can mix this up as you see fit, but the general idea is to complete these movements each and every workout as your standard warm-up. The basic premise is the more reps you do the better you will get.

These weakness templates should be experimented with. Plus, since we live in constantly-varied land, you are encouraged to mix it up anyway.

The beautiful thing about creating these weakness-wods is you kill two birds with one stone: You improve metabolic conditioning via high-intensity training and you improve your weaknesses by doing tons and tons of reps.

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Remember the following:

1. Start! Day in, day out, workout after workout, start training your weaknesses as a pillar of your training.

2. Do lots and lots of reps with perfect form. Increase weight as form improves, not before.

3. Track what you are doing. This will keep you focused on what you are doing and it will allow you to know when to scale up or down. 

Conclusion

When I think of weakness training I always remember Arnold when he talked about bodybuilders being sculptors in the movie “Pumping Iron.” He said that bodybuilders think like a sculptor and if he needs more deltoids he “exercises to put those deltoids on” like an artist would add clay to a statue. Sure, we aren’t bodybuilders, but we are trying to slap improvement and development onto our bodies just the same.

Target your weaknesses until they are no longer weaknesses.

Yours in Fitness,

-Colin Stuckert

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