Little Things That Kill

It seems to me that more and more people are becoming overly engrossed in implementing advanced dietary and training techniques into their daily lives. In some cases this is great and absolutely necessary. In fact as we develop our athleticism over time, more complex and novel methods can provide unique stimuli to continue driving the adaptive processes and avoid staleness. This however is not applicable to the vast majority of people. Training and nutrition basics are not only foundational, but essential throughout the athlete lifespan.

What does this mean? What I’m getting at is, yes although many athletes adopt complex training equipment, programs, and diets, they virtually NEVER deviate from the doing the basics. Ask any world class athlete when they decided to drop heavy compound free weights, or stopped eating so much dang carbs and protein. The answer you’ll likely get is : never, followed by a do you even lift face.

I’m looking you at bionic man – yes you with the $200+ weightlifting shoes, custom belt, and every knee, wrist, and elbow sleeve/wrap possible who still can’t do a single full ROM exercise. You can throw money at the weights all you want, but it won’t lift them for you – until they invent hydraulic lifting suspenders (note to self…).

I’m looking at you suburban over the counter drug cartel with the duffel bag full of supplements who has all but given up on eating traditional ‘food’.

I’m looking at you Where’s Waldo warm up king, who can be found everywhere activating and warming up for over an hour but is never seen actually working out. You’re going to need to lift something sooner or later my friend.

Kidding aside, most of the advanced techniques represent a small minutia of the outcomes needed for success. Yet this minutia seems to get the most attention. Sure it’s fun trying to elicit post activation potentiations, or trying to optimize nutrient timing, but if that it coming at the expense  of training well below our maximum recoverable volume or simply not eating enough calories then we our doing ourselves a massive disservice. Again, it’s not these things don’t matter or have a practical effect, but they are largely insignificant when compared to doing the basics consistently.

So what are these things? What are the things that serve as the infrastructure to our training and nutrition plans?

Let’s take a look at training

  • Performing the basic compound free weight movements in a controlled full range of motion
  • Training at volumes (and frequencies) that are both disruptive and recoverable
  • Training at sufficiently high enough intensities (weight on bar, bar speed, power output)
  • Periodically alleviating training fatigue (deloading, light days, off days)
  • Periodically varying sets, reps, and exercise selection from time to time

We can argue to death over the finer points of some of these topics, like how much variation is good or bad, but ultimately if we are following these points we are likely on the road to success.

Let’s take a look at nutrition

  • Eating the requisite amount of calories to meet your goals (hyper, iso, hypocaloric)
  • Eating a sufficient amount of protein for your size and muscularity (easy fellas, its less than you might think)
  • Eating sufficient carbohydrate to match your training loads and replete lost energy stores
  • On average eating quality food sources and not junk

It’s easy to stress over which intra workout carb you are going to use, or which all natural grass fed butter has the most optimal fat profile, but ultimately these things are virtually meaningless if you are not eating enough OR are eating too much.

Also keep in mind consistency is key. Eminem got it wrong; losing yourself in the moment is not the key to success here. Instead success come with a grind, doing the little things right consistently everyday throughout your athletic career. This means waking up and going to work, training when you’re supposed to train, eating what you’re supposed to eat, and not letting the infinite chaos that is life interfere with the process. It is not glorious, easy, or even pleasant at times, but most of us won’t get where we want to be by doing things right some of the time.

Just remember focus your time and energy on perfecting the basics, they will carry you further than anything else. Resist the urge to jump into that crazy new program or technique you saw, and focus on being a bad ass high bar squatter or bench presser. Put down the gravity carbs which are so glycemic they warp time and replete your glycogen before you lift, and grab some good old Gatorade or fruit juice. It’s perfectly ok to train the basics and add more advanced techniques as you go.

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