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Strength & Performance Blog

The Yoke & Stone Strength & Performance Blog will help athletes at any level to improve their strength and athletic performance.

Specializing too early in our fitness journey is just as detrimental as specializing in our sport too early

Mark Taysom

Specializing in a sport too soon often leads a young athlete to problems and may result in stunting his growth and skill within his chosen sport. In light of this known fact, many people are "specializing" in their training too early (like from day one ha ha) This "specializing" can come from their selection of their fitness "goals". Great and lofty goals like winning a Gold Medal does take an incredible amount of focused/ special training. However, if you are just beginning your training (i.e. under two years of continuous training) your training should be widely varied. I believe that this quite popular idea of "corrective exercises" is directly related to this lack of variation in our training, having become too "specialized" too soon in our development of fitness. You see, the body likes symmetry; just look at your arms for example the right one is just as long as your left one! AMAZING! (Don't tell me about your friend with one leg longer than the other, check his hips). We push the body toward asymmetry / imbalances through our fitness routines.

 

Really "specializing" in our training may indeed lead to great improvements in our performance....... short term (less than 10 years). Everyone wants a huge squat real fast and they brag about how "fast" they progressed! I will tell you, if you progressed "fast" in your squat or whatever, either you were mentally behind in the first place, or you are a novice, or you are juiced on vitamin S, or you were too focused on your goal and have now developed some asymmetry.

 

The quicker we rise in our abilities and the more asymmetry we develop, the more risk for injury we encounter. Now, if one gets hurt because of asymmetry he may be out of the game for a while, whilst his counter part "Mr. Slow and Steady" trudges on. Over time the cyclic pattern of rapidly advancing numbers and polarizing asymmetry followed by injury then recovery and repeat, is a poor approach to lifelong fitness.

For example, imagine two runners running around a track for 24 hours (symbolic of ones time on earth). One runner is only allowed to sprint, until he is tired then he must stop or walk slowly. This runner will indeed appear initially to be succeeding and bragging about the distance he has covered in so short a time. The ever increasing distance over the 24 hours represents ever improving performance.

The second runner limits himself to jogging. Indeed this runner's pace will not make him Instagram famous or bring a lot of attention. And when this runner gets tired he too, may stop or walk. By the end of 24 hours the jogger will be so far ahead of the sprinter.

 

What has happened is, athletes must often find a way to maximize their performance because of seasons or contracts etc. And so they push themselves and specialize, because it is their job to do so!

 

A non-athlete would do well to vary their training a little more than they presently do. For example, let us take the deadlift.

1. Pull from different heights

2. Pull with different bar lengths

3. Flip tires

4. Pick up stones

5. Pick up sandbags

6. Fat bars

7. Towels

8. Different rep schemes

9. Different sets

10. Different rest intervals

11. Heavy uni-lateral deadlifts

12. Pull into flexion

13. Pull into extension

14. Use a trap bar

15. etc. etc.

 

Don't be in a hurry to become strong! Careful with putting timelines for your achievements, they often create anxiety/apprehension, depression, thoughts of discouragement or failure, and even overly reinforcing feelings of success which may cement bad behaviors in training. There are Winds Of Change, however nothing rises faster in those Winds than dust and straw! When the wind blows, the big bad wolf knows that the house made of straw crumbles! BUT the house made by Yoke & Stone, although longer to build, is able to withstand the winds that afflict others who were not so wise in their building.