Have you ever wondered to yourself, "How do I get better?" Well, if you're worth a shit, you should have. If you think you are that great, and you can't possibly get any better, than you probably suck. Complacency could easily be misunderstood for dying. Do not be too comfortable with where you're at, because someone much more hungry than you is right behind you, about to replace you or completely pass you by, rendering you completely insignificant. However, if you make the harder decision, and walk the path less traveled, you will wisely find gold at the end of the rainbow. If you have the desire to get closer to your true potential, here is a short list of 10 keys to being the most dominant athlete you can be.
1. Intensity While this list is not exhaustive, nor is it in order from most to least significant, I think this key, intensity, stands alone at the top of the list. The rest of the keys will be more relevant to your personal needs. Intensity can be defined different ways, but what we are talking about here is how hard you are working towards your goal. If you really want something, you better go get it and don't let anything stand in your way. There is no wall tall enough, no ocean deep enough, and no chain thick enough to keep you from where you want to be. Attack with ferocity, make no excuses, and take no prisoners. Take massive action. You absolutely must work hard, period. I can not emphasize this enough. You will be rewarded if you are working your ass off, even if you are doing some things the wrong way. Perfection is not necessary right from the start, but massive action is. That does not mean I recommend doing a lot of something the wrong way, but I would expect you to "go all in" and invest your heart and soul to reach your goal. If something is not working, you must recognize it and make adjustments along the way. Making a true decision and committing to it for the long haul while attacking it with intensity will guarantee success.
2. Programming Now that you have decided to take massive action, and train with appropriate intensity, it would certainly help to have a road map to where you want to be. Programming is all about having a plan of action. Working really hard is certainly going to get you somewhere, but it might not get you exactly where you want to be as fast as possible. I know when I get in my car to go somewhere, whether it's the bank, store, gym, grandma's house, etc. I know exactly which direction to go, and the most direct route possible. Driving 10 miles west to go 4 miles east is almost the athletic equivalent of doing 1000 curls to get one pullup. Not a great route if you ask me. Having a wise and detailed plan of action will significantly enhance your ability to create the most athletic version of yourself possible. A great idea is to follow in the footsteps of those who emulate what you want to be.
3. Mentality When on your path to achieving greatness in sport, business, or life in general, it is imperative to maintain a warrior positivity. No matter how good, bad, or hard things get, you must remain positive that what you are doing is worth the effort. Too many people quit right before they see the fruits of their labor. The day you quit, is the day before great things happen. So you just gotta go hard one more day, you can quit tomorrow, but today you work hard. When you believe you can do it, your heart will keep pumping that vitality into the dream you have created for yourself. Coupled with massive action, positivity and believing that you can create greatness, is a major asset in your pursuit of dominance. Then it's just a matter of time before you, and everyone around you, realizes the drastic changes you have made, and earned, in your quest to becoming what you want. It helps to separate yourself from negativity completely. If someone does not believe in you, or support your goals, they do not deserve to be in your presence. So do yourself a favor, surround yourself with like-minded people who have a similar mentality as yourself.
4. Nutrition Without a proper nutritional plan, there is no way any athlete will perform at their peak level. Surely we could survive on hotdogs and crackers, but belly fat, back zits and man tits never helped anyone become a great athlete. A big problem here is that nutrition advice comes in many forms, and with millions of fitness gurus selling internet products that almost all seem to contradict each other. Athletes just don't seem to know what's good and what's not, partly because there is too much information and options available to them. Carbs are good, carbs are bad, eat this, don't eat that... It's all very confusing at times. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be a miserable experience trying to figure out what to eat for dinner. It's beyond the scope of this article to go into too much detail as to what exactly an athlete should be eating, but generally speaking, if your food has more that 1-2 ingredients in it, it's probably not healthy. If it has a number in the ingredient label, it's not good. Actually, if it has an ingredient label, it's probably not good. You can follow different diets such as the Zone or a paleo diet, but if you can not adhere to it, it won't work. With that being said, any athlete would benefit by sticking to whole foods such as brightly colored vegetables, an appropriate amount of quality meat, a wide variety of nuts and seeds, and plenty of fruit, all while cutting out the garbage that doesn't help us feel better after the instant gratification passes. Some research suggests that eating a balance of protein, carbohydrate, and fat with every meal can optimize hormone levels, which theoretically seems to be a great thing. I recommend trying it if you don't already.
5. Goal setting This is actually related to programming, but I thought it was important enough to give it its very own number. Every year millions of people set a goal or resolution to achieve something great. Unfortunately, millions fail as well. Maybe they failed to make a worthy goal, maybe they weren't dedicated, maybe they didn't have a good support system or a plan of action. So, in a sense, setting the goal might not be as important as having a plan to follow through with attaining the goal. But I know that if an athlete has a particular goal, it is much easier to derive a plan of action to do what is necessary to achieve said goal. Without the goal, the training program could simply run you in circles with no real payout. If you really want something, go get it, and don't come back til you got it. With any luck, you will have a good group of people to hold you accountable for your actions so you can't quit. But to be the best, there is no quitting, only marching full steam ahead and busting through walls to get what you are after. Set your goals high and do what is necessary to get there. Simple.
6. Simplicity It has been said that the lost secrets of strength and development can be found through hard and heavy basic movements. The basics can be simple to learn, but never easy to perform if done with proper technique and intensity. There are far too many programs with too many bells and whistles that have no place in most trainees programs. Pure and simple, basics work. Following a unique program for the sake of being different will likely get you little results or even injured. Especially as a novice trainee, nothing could be worse than training with too much variety, or too many variables to screw around with. Keep things simple and get big results. One of the best ways to keep simplicity in your training is to keep your brain totally out of it and follow in the footsteps of those who have had success before you. If a quality coach is going to help you do what you want to do, you would be better off listening instead of chasing your own tail.
7. Ingenuity Right after talking about simplicity, I bring up ingenuity. This seems to be contradictory, and maybe it is, but let me explain. Everything works, but nothing works forever. As a beginner, an athlete will see tremendous results with just a few training sessions a week of some basic movements done with quality technique. Eventually, your system will adapt and you will require greater demands to see the same types of results. Ingenuity can help shock the system and "confuse" your muscles to provoke an adaptation. This could be as simple as adding weight, adding reps, adding exercises, or decreasing rest periods to make progress. But what I am talking about here is using very creative methods for the advanced athletes to make insane increases in strength and stamina that make training plateaus something that they only hear other people talk about, but they have never actually seen themselves. Creative exercises and techniques that can get you stronger, faster, leaner and more explosive than ever before. These tactics are not only available to olympic coaches anymore, They can be available to anyone who wants to learn and be a nasty badass. But they must be applied properly to the appropriate athletes at the right times, or they are just a waste.
Training for Athletic Domination
8. Recovery/restoration Martin Rooney, pioneer of physical training for MMA and trainer to many superfreaks, said to "Schedule recovery first. Recovery is priority number one. Always build your schedule around it, not training." That alone should strike a nerve as to how important it is to get healthy and always feel on top of your game. If you are feeling banged up, tight, sore and stiff, you will not be prepared train at your best. We need to take the time to get our bodies prepared for the stresses that we put it through. Several things that must be considered for recovery are your nutrition, sleep, mental relaxation, contrast baths, massage, self myofascial release, and more. Mike Burgener, olympic lifting coach extraordinaire has been known to say he does not believe in overtraining, but under recovering. There will be a big difference between varying levels of athletes and their recovery methods, but make no mistake, if you are not scheduling rest and recovery into your lifestyle, your engine is bound to break down sooner or later. So do yourself a favor and make a little time for prevention and feeling healthy, or you will be forced to spend a lot of time and money on rehabilitation and injuries. The choice is yours.
9. Consistency/ sustainability It is well known that olympic style lifting requires and develops lots of power for athletes. However, if one performs the movements with bad technique, there is a risk of injury to say the least. If you get injured, you can't train, if you can't train, you can't be a dominant athlete. That being said, the athlete needs to consider what they are going to be able to commit to on a regular basis. Just because the olympic lifts are ridiculously awesome, does not mean they are right for all athletes. It is not wise to force an athlete to train a particular way, it is better to adjust the training to the athletes needs and abilities. This goes for any style of training, I'm not picking on snatching or cleaning here. If the only place where an athlete can train a particular way is over an hour from home, and can only be done once a month, it might not be best to prioritize this type of training. The BJJ practitioner might need to be rolling with a partner, but making it to the mats only once every third Wednesday of the month will not help them dominate their chosen sport. What you do must be practiced regularly and consistently. Dan John, author and world renown coach, has said, "If it's important, do it everyday." Eric Cressey, author and owner of Cressey Performance near Boston said, "that the best strength and conditioning programs are the ones that are sustainable. I'll take a crappy program executed with consistency over a great program that's only done sporadically." Of course, a great program executed with consistency is the ideal option.
10. Mastery Every once in a while a young kid from outer space picks up a golf club, swings it, and magically a little ball lands in a cup somewhere off in the distance. This occurs in every sport, some kid is just head and shoulders faster, stronger, and better than the rest without putting forth any real effort. They have these innate abilities and natural talents that allow them to progress through the ranks faster and easier than everyone else. These are the anomalies, they are not included in this discussion. For those of us non mutants born here, on Earth, we need to work hard, really hard, for a long time to get to be better than average at our chosen sport. Now if you want to be dominant at your chosen sport, this needs to be taken to a whole new level. The basics of most skills and sports can be taught and learned in a matter of minutes. However, to master these very skills can take a lifetime. Most people will see a ton of progress right from the jump, but then their improvement may slowly start to decelerate. Don't think because you have been throwing a football for 2 months that you're ready to destroy all opponents in your path. Just think, Brett Favre has been a PRO for 20 years and surely he hasn't mastered his craft yet, but the key is to always be trying to get better. Never stop learning. Mistakes are probably your best learning lessons, so make a lot of them in your experiences and grow from them. Surely Brett has made his share. One becomes better at their craft by mastering the basics and fundamentals. Once these foundational skills have been acquired and mastered, they must be repeated constantly. The level of training must also match the level of athlete. For example, you don't have a white belt practice the drills of a black belt. Likewise, you don't teach calculus to a second grader. One of the worst things an athlete can do is train in a way that is too demanding of their skill level. Just because the gold medal olympic athletes are using program X, does not mean that it is the right program for you. Beginners should focus only on the basics and make practical progressions from there. Every step is based on the previous knowledge and skills acquired. After years and years of progressive training, you too can be a master of your sport.
Every day you can get just a little better than yesterday by eating better, sleeping better, training better, etc. Utilizing the principles discussed above will help keep you on the path to athletic domination. What can you do right now to get better? Whether it's go stretch, eat, sleep, meditate or train, something can be done to make you better.
If you're in or near the UK, you need to check out the Strength & Conditoning for Athletic Domination Seminar I am co-hosting with Sean Keefe and Zoran Dubaic at Strength & Performance in Manchester on Saturday, May 14th, 2011. Its going to be an amazing seminar with tons of information covered from bodyweight and kettlebell training, strongman and olympic lifting, sandbags and anything else that can enhance your skills and make you a more dominant athlete!