Have you ever noticed in the gym that you gravitate towards what you’re good at?
If you can bench a lot of weight, then you find yourself benching every time you go to the gym and certainly every time you work out your chest. Or maybe you have that one abs exercise that’s tough but you make it look easy.
While focusing on our strengths makes us comfortable and is the path of least resistance, focusing on our weaknesses can lead to the greatest overall change in our physical fitness level.
This article will help you develop a deeper appreciation for the importance of focusing on your weaknesses and will provide a step-by-step system that you can follow to improve them.
The first and most important step before evaluating and addressing your weaknesses is to leave your ego at home.
Oftentimes we’ll decide on a certain exercises based on “what other people will think”. While the concept of gym insecurity is worthy of a separate post, or even series of posts, in a perfect world we would choose exercises that help us achieve our specific goals and also help improve our overall level of physical fitness. It doesn’t matter how much we want to impress other people at the gym by doing our most impressive exercise over and over again.
The most egregious error when it comes to ego is trying to lift too much weight to impress other people. This is a recipe for injury, because exercise form is almost always compromised.
If you truly want to reach your potential, you should leave your ego at home.
Many guys think about fitness in terms of strength, but the reality is that strength is only one of ten components of physical fitness. The first 5 components are health-related that can be improved by training and diet and the last 5 are skill-related:
1. Body Composition
3. Cardiovascular Fitness
5. Muscular Endurance
From this list, you can dig deeper into each vertical. For example, regarding “strength”, you can evaluate your strength levels for the various movement patterns such as squat, lunge, push, pull, twist and then you can even go more granular such as vertical push, and horizontal push. You can zero in on the exercises, or movement patterns that are your weakest. Focus on the first 5 components, then move on from there.
Generally speaking, here’s a list of common weaknesses to consider:
Now write everything down and create your weakness wall that highlights your weaknesses as opposed to only your strengths.
If you are doing barbell bench press for 5 sets two times per week and that is your strongest exercise, try cutting back to once per week, replacing the exercise with flat dumbbell bench, or work on your muscular endurance with plyometric pushups.
Here’s what you should consider for your strongest exercises:
1) Decrease the frequency
2) Decrease the volume
3) Cut it out altogether for 1-2 months
If you are already strong at something, you don’t need to do it very much to keep it as a strength.
While you may have several weaknesses after further analysis, start working on 1 weakness, preferably your greatest weakness that you need to address. It can be tempting to try to accomplish more, but simply improving let’s say flexibility requires a lot of attention and can take several months of consistent foam rolling and static stretching. You can make your weakness your primary, or secondary goal for a 2-3 month period.
Be sure that your primary and secondary goals are synergistic and not antagonistic to each other. For example, if you’re primary emphasis of your routine is on fat loss, or strength, you may have the goal of also improving flexibility as your weakness. If the primary goal is increasing strength, it will be tough to also work on muscular endurance as a weakness.
You can repeat this process over and over again to help round out your fitness level and improve how you look and feel.
To hammer this point home about why focusing on weaknesses is so important, I have some quotes from Gray Cook who is one of the world’s foremost experts on identifying and managing fitness-related weakness:
“The best strength coaches I know are actually weakness managers.”
“Anticipate weakness, limitation and problems before they occur”
“How many of us can really say our weaknesses have been effectively managed, our limitations have been removed and our asymmetries have been balanced? Until then, sports specificity and activity-specificity training is not the best platform for improvement.”
“Sometimes I feel like telling people to stop posting maximums unless they’ll also post minimums. Whether things are posted on the Internet or the gym wall, we always seem to post our strengths and somehow neglect to report our weaknesses—to others as well as ourselves.”
So now it’s your time to become your own “weakness manager”, to manage your weakness which will improve your overall fitness and athleticism so you can reach your full potential.