So you’ve been training for a few months, your squat looks much improved, and you’re beginning to lift some pretty heavy weight. What now?
Strip it back and get better.
The basics are both timeless and essential. They are infinitely refine-able. They are the Pareto-distributed minority that gives you the majority of your results.
You’ve got better at your squat, no doubt. But there are probably some things you’re doing that aren’t ideal, and you should take the time to go back to bodyweight and rebuild from the ground up.
Thought you’d moved on?
The truth is that you are never too good for the basics. Don’t believe me? Just watch the best athletes in any sport. They drill their skills till they kill their opposition. They drill the basics.
Every great weightlifter or powerlifter spends time working with the empty bar. Sometimes more, sometimes less. But they treat the light weights the same as they treat the heavy weights because it’s all practice.
Strength is a skill and the more you practice a skill the better you become. Mastery when viewed this way is simply unbelievable dedication – and resultant competency – to the basics.
The basics begin before you even get to the bar. American baseball coach John Wooden would begin by teaching his new recruits how to put their socks on. Think that’s a bit silly? Well not wearing your socks properly means blisters, and blisters affect performance. Think it’s overkill? His team won the championship for 10 years out of 12 and it started by paying big attention to small details.
Small things become big things, and the basics are the small things.
Viewed a certain way, the squat is the simplest thing imaginable; sit your bum between your heels. Begin analysing it, and the complexities can seem endless; knees out, chest up, elbows down, back tight, screw the floor, drive with your hips, drive with your chest, brace your lats, and on and on.
Get someone who knows what they’re doing to watch you squat and give you one to three things to focus on at a time. If your really suck, just focusing on one thing at a time is fine. If you’re pretty good already you may be able to handle three things.
I am obviously not just talking about the squat. This applies to every lift you ever perform. Some lifts are the basic lifts. Some lifts are not basic, but they have their own basics. Put another way; what are the one to three things you should be focusing on when you are doing what you are doing, in order to do it well?
You can apply this to doing the dishes as much to strength training.
And whenever you feel like you’re getting pretty good – like you’ve got this thing figured out – then that is exactly when you should strip things back and refocus on the basics.
In programming terminology you might call this planned regression. In minimalism you would call it simplification.
It is really the natural ebb and flow of life. You accumulate stuff. Experience. Things. Skills. Then you whittle and discard them down to the bare bones and begin again with something more refined. In this way you daisy chain your way up the ladder of mastery and in twenty years time you are really pretty damn good.
Take the time to go backwards. One step back, two steps forward.
You are never to good for the basics.