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Ego is Your Enemy: Become Your Own “Weakness Manager”

By Marc Perry / July 1, 2017

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.

Improve Your Weakness Step #1 | Leave Your Ego at Home

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.

Improve Your Weakness Step #2 | Identify Your Weaknesses

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
2. Strength
3. Cardiovascular Fitness
4. Flexibility
5. Muscular Endurance
6. Agility
7. Balance
8. Coordination
9. Power
10. Speed

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:

Many guys will stick their head in the sand instead of addressing their weakness.

For Guys:

  • Posture/Flexibility – internally rotated shoulders are among the most common posture problems that are derived from lack of flexibility and a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Back Exercises – guys tend to do a lot of pushing movements along with arm exercises while neglecting the second largest muscle group in the human body – the back.
  • Leg Exercises – given our legs are the largest muscle group in our bodies, one would think we would pay a lot more attention to leg exercises, but for a lot of guys the opposite is true.
  • Muscular Endurance – If you find yourself completing exercises in the 6-10 rep range, try going higher to 15 reps to change it up.
  • Twisting motion – just because a guy has a six pack, doesn’t mean he has rotational strength. In the gym, we focus most of our time in the sagittal and frontal planes (forward and sideways), not the transverse plane (twisting).
  • For Girls:

  • Strength – Strength training in general. Any and all exercises, especially compound exercises.

    Now write everything down and create your weakness wall that highlights your weaknesses as opposed to only your strengths.

    Improve Your Weakness Step #3 | Cut Back on Strongest Exercises

    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.

    Improve Your Weakness Step #4 | Choose One Weakness to Improve

    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.

    Improve Your Weakness Step #5 | Repeat

    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:

    Anticipate weakness, limitation and problems before they occur - Gray Cook.

    “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.


    • Eduardo Martinez says:

      Hey I'm new to this site I had a question to ask not really relevant to this blog but I just wanted to post it on the most recent one.
      . Im 14 and I have about 5 months to prepare to make my highschool soccer team. I'm not fat, but im not ripped or anything either. Im 134 pounds and I'm 5'9. I pretty much have a training schedule of what I will do in workouts to get in shape, but I'm not sure about whether I should be doing any weight lifting at my age because some of the exercises I plan on doing are ones like bench presses and pec flys or leg presses, but I heard that doing weight training under the age of like 16 stunts your growth and you'll end up being kind of short (which I really don't want). So can you tell me what is right for someone at my age? Thanks

      • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

        @Eduardo - That's a great question. You certainly can lift weights at a younger age and it will not stunt your growth. In fact, many football players start lifting weights when they are 12-13 years old. The issue is that if you don't have a personal trainer, or strength coach to help guide you, I would stick to pull ups and push ups and other body weight exercises. They are lower impact but still very effective. In addition, consider doing hill sprints and jump rope to help improve your quickness.

    • William says:

      Hey Marc!

      First I'd like to thank you for this super helpful blog. It helps me a lot to really understand things related to healthy fitness.
      I'm 5'5 26yr old and I have the typical Asian body which is slim most of the body but the unwanted belly.
      My gold is to get rid of that ugly belly, in the meantime, pack up my upper body.
      Following your nutrition guidance by using a super handy app called "my fitness pal" with regular liffting, I dropped 10lb and finally see my dreaming abs after 26 years. I'm thrilled seeing this result. (I used to be 135 lb with 18% body fat mostly on my belly and I'm now 126lb with 9% body fat)
      However, I still look super slim. I do have seen my body undergoing kinda reconstruction in the past 4months. (My jeans and tshirts tell the story.) I got broader shoulders, slightly bigger chest, and those carved-ish abs, but somehow I feel I hit the limit.
      Now, Im afraid of eating more because I don't want to see that belly again while I want to eat more to pack up a little bit more (I still look super slim and weak)
      Whenever I do cardio, it burns fat from my entire body so although other parts of my bady have reached the minimum (yes I see bones lol), I still have the belly. This is NOT something I want.

      In this artical, you mentioned we should focus on one weakness at a time. Does that mean I should just start eating more (of course in the healthy way). Or, is this just i have reached my natrual physical limitation?

      Can you give me any suggestion to get a bit bigger at the right spots and still keep being in-shape ?

      • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

        @William - In this article, I was really trying to focus on a holistic view of your body and health. Given your weakness is aesthetic, or related to how your body looks, it's up to you whether or not that's worth focusing on. Essentially, you are discussing refinements of your physique as a hobby, which is totally cool and something I personally enjoy. One thing you may consider is focusing a little more effort on those areas you want to improve while eating a bit more calories on your toughest lifting days and eat normally on the other days. That could do the trick. It's the concept of calorie cycling bodybuilders use.

    • Maria says:

      Let me add a few more common weaknesses for Girls:

      Upper Body exercises: Lots of girls focus on their legs and bottoms neglecting their upper body muscles.

      Abs exercises: Too many girls do a loooot of ab exercises every week. However, the secret to a flatter and stronger tummy is not doing abs 400 times a week! There are other exercises that work the abs and strengthen the body as well (e.g., pushups, mountain climbers).

      • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

        Ah, VERY good! Thanks for sharing. May have to update the post with your comments.

    • Eric says:

      Hey Marc! I love the Builtlean site and videos. I think it has already improved my knowledge/motivation toward fitness and nutrition. I just had a couple questions that may not be specific to one particular post. The first is regarding pushups. I have a certain amount of pushups that I try to do with every strength workout in the gym and on my off days. Is it too much to do pushups every day? I am doing 2-3 full body workouts per week. I am slowly increasing the total amount of proper form pushups done, but to me an off day is a day of pushups and yoga. The second question is ipod or no ipod in the gym?

      • Marc Perry, CSCS, CPT says:

        @Eric - really happy to hear you are enjoying the site! If you are doing 2-3 full body workouts per week, I would say the push ups are not 100% necessary, but if you feel like they help condition your body and you are not sore, it's fine in my opinion. Push ups are easier on the joints as you get good at them then let's say doing bench press. There's nothing inherently wrong with doing push ups every day to be clear as long as you are recovering every day and don't feel very sore and your joints don't hurt. In terms of ipod, that's your call. Seems most people wear ipods, I personally don't listen to music while I work out.