Addressing Strengths & Weaknesses – Part II

First off, I hope everyone had a great memorial day and paid tribute in some way to our troops, past and present. They have done more for us than many ever dream to do. I paid my respects thanking those I know have served…and by nearly killing myself lighting up a grill for some bbq. We all have our own, unique ways of celebrating holidays. Anyway…

In part one, I mentioned it is important to train to your weaknesses instead of focusing on your impressive lifts, and doing so requires an imbalanced program focused on said weaknesses. Years of training “mirror muscles” (the ones you see when flexing in the mirror) can lead to deficiencies in other areas, typically upper back and posterior chain strength. These issues become more pronounced by poor posture, from activities such as sitting at a desk, hunched over a keyboard for hours at a time. This isn’t to say “never train your chest again” – instead, it is a reminder there’s more to training than what you’re doing. Specifically, what you’re not doing.


To recap, below are my strengths and weaknesses I mentioned last week – 

Weaknesses:

  • Ankle mobility
  • Lower body flexibility – primarily hamstrings & quadriceps
  • Unilateral leg strength
  • Transverse plane core strength – resisting rotation
  • Scapular retractors isometric strength
  • Rotator cuff activation & strength


Strengths

  • Bilateral leg strength
  • Posterior chain & erector spinae strength
  • Sagittal plane core strength – resisting spinal flexion
  • Vertical pulling strength


Again, it’s important to put the emphasis on weaknesses (as plenty of time and effort has likely already gone into building the strengths into, well, strengths). Now that we have gone through the humbling process of admitting we’re not perfect (still debatable), what’s the next step? How do we correct these weaknesses and shorten that list?

First, we address any soft tissue restrictions that may be causing problems. Go through a solid foam rolling program and note where you find any trigger points (they’ll likely be in the antagonist muscles to your strengths). One of the biggest detractors for a successful training program is pain, and if we can eliminate the source of pain (instead of simply avoiding training the area), we can develop a well-rounded program.

After improving the quality of the tissue, we want to essentially “reset” our body into a balanced state. How do we do that? Increase flexibility in areas that are chronically overactive and tight, while activating and strengthening muscles that are weak and/or “locked long” as Thomas Myers puts it in Anatomy Trains.

Given the above examples, we can figure that there is some tightness throughout my posterior chain (given the limited ankle mobility and lower body flexibility). So let’s increase the amount of time dedicated to flexibility and mobility work and less time under tension until ideal ROM is achieved. Notice I said less time, not no time – there can still be lower body strength lifts, however if I have a limited amount of time to train, the flexibility work takes priority.

This trade-off occurs with every strength/weakness pairing. If X is limited, then you’re probably doing too much Y and not enough Z. Increase Z and decrease Y until X is up to par. Simple? Yes. Easy? No. I’m no different than anyone else – I enjoy doing what I’m good at and shy away from my weaknesses, but if I want to be able to continue to make gains (and live with less pain from poor training habits), changes need to be made.

Weak rotator cuff and scapular retractors? See ya big weights, hello side-lying external rotations and bat wings. Balance an issue? Bye bye stable, two-footed movements, you’re being replaced with single leg, multi-planar movements. Sure, you’ll look awkward and weak for a while until your body adapts, but that’s the good news – you’re body is going to adapt. Those weaknesses will fade and be replaced with strengths.

Not only will your list of weaknesses shorten, you’ll move better and likely see an increase in your strengths. Weaknesses aren’t permanent, they are anchors that must be raised to allow your gains to continue. I hope you can get comfortable with being uncomfortable, it’s one of the best pieces of advice I can give. Once you’ve mastered a lift, movement, or skill, move out of your comfort zone and try something new. You’ll be surprised how quickly weaknesses can become strengths, once loathed exercises become staples in your program, and your ability increases.

As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please feel free to contact me at anytime.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112

YouTube.com/DrewBHenley 


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