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More is Better?

By Todd Durkin (as appeared in STACK Magazine, June 2006)
Todd is the founder of Fitness Quest 10 & Todd Durkin Enterprises in San Diego, CA. He leads a staff of 26 employees, trains over 25 NFL athletes, and motivates companies, teams, and conferences throughout the country.

In America, we live in a culture that everything has to be bigger, badder, and better.  When it comes to food, everything is supersized. When it comes to exercise, we often obsess with it. When it comes to lifting weights, the mentality is often always “heavier is better”. In our “more is better” mentality, we need to be careful that it doesn’t actually deter us from our goals rather than helping us achieve them. Here are a couple misconceptions I often see with my athletes that can lead to over-fatigue, stress, injury, and lack of production on the playing field.

Lifting heavy is a good thing
I am the first to tell you that strength training is a necessary component to being great. Remember though, you must periodize your program so that gradually cycle your volume on your body so that it allows for optimal rest and recovery. Rest and recovery is when your body changes. REST is not a four letter word and needs to be planned as part of your program design. Additionally, be sure to work on the small, stabilizing muscles such as the rotator cuff, hips, feet & calves, and core when training. I often see a gross over-emphasis on just the large muscles of the body and this can lead injury. Work on your entire body from feet to fingertips, left to right, front and back, so that no area of your body goes untrained. Focus on movement patterns and speed of movement versus always just on the amount of weight that you lift.

Lifting 6 days a week is a good thing
Yeah, if you are a bodybuilder. If you want to be a strong, fast, and athletic, you need to lift weights no more than 4 days per week. If you are going to train more than that, focus on speed training, building your cardio-metabolic base, and your flexibility. There is no sense in doing just “body-part” training if you want to be athlete that requires coordination, speed, agility, power, quickness, strength, and movement skills to all work in unison. You can be strong but you better be able to move if you want to be great.

Chest & Arms will make you a better athlete
If you want to be a great athlete, start down at your feet and work your way up. Foot speed and leg strength are critical for athletic success. I encourage all athletes to get in 2 times a week of speed and quickness training and to “learn how to run” with proper form. Additionally, an athlete needs to work on balance as well as overall lower-body development.

Some of the best exercises to focus on lower body development include:
  • Squats
  • Sled Drags
  • 1 Legged Straight-legged deadlifts
  • Lunges with a Twist (multiple angles & directions)
  • Plyometrics (squat jumps, lunge hops, skater plyos, Bulgarian lunge hops, Lateral bounds, etc.)
  • Barefoot balance touches and multiple balance drills performed barefoot

Great athletes often have great movement skills. This comes with hard-work and training properly. Although there is nothing wrong with training the arms, these should be supplementary moves at the tail-end of your workout to get that final pump that we all love to feel. Too much time by our young athletes is often spent on the upper body and arms—the “mirror muscles” or the “beach muscles”.  If you want to be great, develop that lower body chain and great things will happen. Get to work!

In conclusion, focus on working out with weights no more than 4 times per week and be sure that at least 2 of those days include lower body training & core training. The other 2 days can emphasize the upper body and/or speed development and movement mechanics. Flexibility should be done everyday and REST is not a four letter word. Take 1 day completely off per week and there is nothing wrong with taking 2 days completely off per week if your intensity is high throughout the week. Program design is critical for the success of your program as well as your rest time that you purposefully schedule.
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