Small Changes that make a BIG difference and a hard to believe story from long ago
Regular readers of this column know that one of my enduring bits of advice is that working to achieve near perfect lifting technique is the only way to realize your full potential. It takes almost constant vigilance to ensure that you dont fall into some bad habit that will diminish your performance.
If near perfect performance stayed the same once you accomplished it once, no major league baseball team would need batting coaches or pitching coaches. No musician would need a teacher, etc.
Peak performance, even excellent performance can degrade almost imperceptibly over a short time. Those of us who do not have a coach or teacher observing our work regularly will probably develop a few bad habits in our performance that we are blissfully unaware of.
Recently this message came home to me.
I have been running as part of my training for nearly six decades. Of late, I had become much slower and unable to do much of a sprint. As Im 82 I passed this off to being over 30.
I dont recall what the prompt was that caused me to quickly evaluate the mechanics of my running stride. Perhaps it was an article on bone alignment for lifting heavy loads or something like that.
Whatever the prompt, I did a complete analysis of my running stride and discovered to my dismay that over time I had been disengaging the big toe on my right foot to push off. This effectively meant that I was cutting about 30% of the power in my running stride.
When I went out to run after this revelation after a brief warm up, I began fully engaging my right big toe on each stride. This small change made a huge difference in my speed, posture and overall smoothness when running.
During my weightlifting I discovered that I had managed to cut the right big toe out of my pulls, and overhead work. Simply flexing the right big toe enabled me to get full body tension on the overhead press and much better stability on the power clean.
Reviving my tension in the right big toe also kicked up my deadlift a bit. (However, it did not help in the bench press).
The bottom line: check all aspects of your alignment, tension, and execution to see if some little fault has crept into your lifting or running. Tiny faults can compromise a lot of your hard work and lead to you doing less than your capability.
Probably the best place to begin is with your feet. Do a full check of your positions, how you distribute your weight during a lift, and whether you change the tension in your foot at any point in a lift.
The second thing to check on any power movements is whether you relax a muscle group that should remain tight at some point in your lift.
The important things that happen in power movements all take place under the skin and out of sight. It is up to each of us to figure out some of the things we may be doing wrong that subvert our performance.
How Times Have Changed
During the past few weeks forgiving student loan debt has been prominently featured in the news. It reminded me of how different things were when I was an undergraduate student at Michigan State University in the early 60s.
Back then tuition at this major university was so cheap that some of my fraternity brothers and I created a mythical student and paid for him to take some courses at MSU.
Why do this?
Back then each time your organization held a party, you had to get a permit from the university. If your party caused enough problem for the police to be called, the person who signed the permit would be expelled.
Thus did we create Mr. Robert P. Shook. He had an address in the deep abyss that was Detroit. He was majoring in general studies and circumvented the normal admission process by starting out in what was called night school.
We enrolled Robert for a couple courses that had huge (anonymous) lecture classes. No one ever took attendance and Roberts presence or absence from lectures would hardly be noticed. Of course we signed him up for courses one or more of us had taken before.
When tests came around (always multiple choice) my chums, and me alternated taking them for Robert. It was important that he not stand out.so modest but acceptable performance was expected.
Our cash investment in Roberts academic quest was about ten buck each. Tuition was probably $25 per credit.
Through one full school year, Robert diligently signed our party permit requests. His academic progress was steady, but undistinguished. Keeping below the radar was essential.
Late in the spring a story broke in the student newspaper about a fraternity at UCLA that had graduated a mythical student.
The Dean of Students at Michigan State responded by saying that if anyone at MSU was caught doing such a prank, everyone associated with the scam would be expelled!
Roberts quest for academic achievement ended abruptly.
Who knows what he might have done with a degree. However, he had no student debt.