Last night my wifes granddaughter was at dinner with us. She is a hot shot high school basketball player currently getting ready for her senior season. While discussing her pre-season training, she mentioned one of her team mates who practices all the time, and never gets any better.
This phrase could apply to about 90% of the people I have seen training in weightlifting over the past 60+ years. They train constantly and never ever seem to improve.
Actually, the practice of doing a lot of training and never improving applies to virtually any sport. I believe that this happens because (drum roll) when most people practice, they perfect their mistakes.
This goes directly against the conventional wisdom that practice makes perfect. Reality is that perfect practice helps you get closer to perfect.
In weightlifting (or any other individual sport) several things conspire to make our practice something that cements our mistakes in place.
There is both good news and bad news. The good news is that by understanding what we are trying to fix, most of us can improve our lifting (or game) a lot. The bad news is that the number of ways we can perfect our mistakes is huge!
The way to improve is to deal with one issue at a time. Ill introduce a common but almost unseen problem that leads to poor performance: the blind spot.
Most of us get little regular feedback on our lifting technique. Good technique is not to get style points, but to maximize our power output. If our technique is deficient, then our efforts will be sub-maximal.
Problems will often repeatedly occur at points in the lift where we go blank for a moment. We lose conscious control of how our body is performing the lift.
This idea was introduced to me in the writings of the great golf coach Fred Shoemaker several years ago. I have adapted it to powerlifting since both the golf swing and a power lift require the player to execute an all-out movement perfectly.
The blind spot is that portion of the movement where the player has no conscious physical sense of what is happening. They simply rely on wildly applying force and the weights momentum to get them through that part of the movement.
For example, consider the competition squat. It is necessary to go below parallel to execute a legal lift. For many lifters once they descend below a certain point, getting below parallel becomes a frantic search for proper depth.
In this case, the link between mind and body of our hypothetical lifter is foggy at best. In this part of the lift, our lifter has a blind spot where he or she has no sense of what is happening.
This blind struggle for control severely limits how much the lifter can ever expect to squat.
Each of us are likely find that we have blind spots in a part (or parts) of each lift. It is there that our concentration suddenly vanishes and we simply push like hell.
For example, in the bench press the dreaded sticking point just off the chest may be where the blind spot appears. In the deadlift, the blind spot will often appear just before the pull off the floor begins.
Each lifter will have a slightly different set of blind spots. The way to begin correcting them is to find out where yours are.
First, mentally walk yourself through each of your lifts and see if you can identify where your concentration breaks.
Next use a very light weight and execute the lift while consciously feeling every part of the lift when done perfectly.
To keep the feel of a perfect lift, you should always do every rep of the squat, bench press and deadlift, with exactly the same form and concentration regardless of the weight! This will mean that when you are lifting heavy weights your body will be programmed for perfect execution.
Your practice will then be directed at building both your concentration and your feel of what a perfectly executed lift will be.
The more you practice this concentration and feel of a perfect lift, the more chance you give yourself for major improvement.
Finding your blind spots represents an opportunity for improvement. Think of this as opening a doorway for you to improve, not as a criticism of the way you have trained so far.
In my next newsletter, Ill continue to explore how to improve your performance by NOT perfecting mistakes.