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The Power of Elimination – Part Two

“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” The Power of Elimination | Part Two It is a very American attitude to want to solve problems and make ourselves feel better by adding more, doing more, and consuming more.  Fitness and health are certainly no stranger to this phenomena.  I’m constantly asked what more can be done to expedite or compound results.  What I’ve come to realize is that rarely is doing more the answer.  Quite frequently it’s the exact opposite; something needs to be removed in order to achieve progress.  Be it clients trying to lose weight, athletes, or even my own personal workouts, harnessing the power of less can create better results faster.  In this three part series I’m going to talk about utilizing this strategy for different situations. Athletes are particularly prone to overcomplicating the training process, often through no fault of their own.  I’ve trained athletes who literally have 6 hour baseball practices in high school, complete with hundreds of crunches and pushups.  This represents a total lack of appreciation or understanding of specific strength development, movement quality, and central nervous system fatigue.  The reason that that military has and to some extent still uses this “calisthenic” type training has more to do with what’s possible to do with hundreds of soldiers, no equipment, and minimal supervision rather than what will actually make them better. There is a phrase used when discussing body composition, “underweight, over-fat,” referring to the idea that although someone weighs less than they probably should, they are carrying a higher bodyfat percentage than someone ideally would at that weight.  For athletes, I like the phrase “over-trained, under-developed” or more specifically “under-strengthened.”   We see athletes that are perpetually tired and sore from “training” but yet are incredibly weak and lack stability.  Usually this is the “more is better” approach taken too far by an overzealous coach or parent.  In their mind, running mile after mile or doing a million crunch variations will have some sort of positive transient effect on their on-field performance.  Wrong.

BOSU (Blue Overrated Spectacle of Uselessness)

“Strong” as it applies to most team sports refers to maximal or near maximal force production over a short period of time.  This type of strength is not developed as a result of just “feeling the burn” of lots of sets of high-rep crunches and curls, nor will distance running “strengthen” your legs despite what traditional training lore might tell you.  It’s not just about how big your muscles are, either.  Strong is the ability for your brain and body (neuromuscular) to create instantaneous expressions of force.  It doesn’t take a lot of reps, time, or always cause a ton of soreness. I think the best way athletes can utilize the power of elimination in their training is to cut out a lot of the “junk” in their training programs.  Focus on progressing and mastering basic compound strength exercises and stay exclusively below 8 reps.  Sixteen to twenty sets per workout total is more than sufficient to improve strength.  It may seem counterintuitive to not have to crawl out of the gym from exhaustion, but it’s simply impossible to train that way and get consistently stronger.  Noted Strength Coach Eric Cressey asks the question, “are you making your clients better or just making them tired?” Don’t be constantly looking for more exercises or drills to improve athletic performance.  What you end up with is a lot of subpar crap and little progress.  Excel at the basics, focus on getting stronger, and forget the rest. In Part Three of this series, I’ll discuss how I applied the elimination principle and increased my progress