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Friday, May 25, 2012

Addressing Strengths & Weaknesses

"It's not enough to be good if you have the ability to be better."

As you may be aware, I am big on quotes and that one tops the list (even on the link). An issue with several athletes and coaches is the belief that "good" is enough and they can hold steady and continue to succeed. Reflecting on yourself, your knowledge, and your skill set, then finding where you can improve and actually RECOGNIZING those areas as weaknesses is a difficult and humbling act. 

In the weight room, this is evident in athletes who hate stretching, or doing heavy leg work, or balancing their bench pressing with enough back work. The reason for avoiding certain work in training is usually simple - they aren't good at it. They aren't flexible so stretching hurts and shows their inflexibility, their weights on leg lifts aren't as impressive as others or leaves them sore (due to lack of training), and nobody ever asks how many chin-ups you can do, the focus is on pressing big weight. Ask a high level athlete what his strengths are and you'll likely get a well-rounded answer (depending on how modest the athlete is). Ask the same athlete about their weaknesses and you'll likely get a half hearted response or one that starts with "Well, coach says I need to work on..." 

And therein lies the issue - athletes (and their coaches) attempt to distance themselves from their weaknesses and focus exclusively on their strengths. There is reason to emphasize strengths and hide weaknesses in competition (don't plan to run the ball 90% of the time if your team is built to pass), but in training this leads to imbalances or worse, injuries. Most athletes have been training to enhance their imbalances most of their lives by drifting towards their strengths and avoiding their weak areas at all costs. By the time they recognize the importance of a balanced program, it's usually too late or comes after rehabbing an avoidable injury.

In order to return to a physically balanced state, it is important to build the program in an IMBALANCED manner. More specifically, put a higher emphasis on improving weaknesses and creating a balanced (in terms of agonist/antagonist muscle forces) athlete. Eric Cressey does an excellent job describing how he addresses this in his training programs with this webinar

Many of these imbalances can be seen in an athlete's posture or with a simple movement screen such as the FMS. Common imbalances such as Janda's Upper-Crossed/Lower-Crossed Syndromes or any chronically overactive/underactive muscles can be noted by these assessments, but in order for an athlete to improve, a self-assessment is necessary. Below is my own self-assessment and next week I will show how the workouts have been built to address them.

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

It's important for weaknesses to be addressed first in both assessment AND program design. When looking at weaknesses first, it becomes obvious what modifications must be done in programming. Next week, I'll cover how the above weaknesses are addressed in my workouts. If you have completed a similar assessment and would like some ideas on how to improve them, feel free to leave a comment below or email me anytime.

As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, don't hesitate to contact me.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
YouTube.com/DrewBHenley

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