Training with Purpose: Deep Love or Cheap Lust?

TAGS: combines, coaching athletes, increased strength, Gabriel Naspinski, training athletes, MEET, recovery

Introduction

Maybe it's because I'm getting older, recently got married, and generally am getting to the age when people start to “settle down.” People who are perceived as older and wiser always talk about thinking ahead and looking at the bigger picture as opposed to living in the moment. This is opposed to those who are young, usually have tunnel vision, and can’t look past the small time frame or distance right in front of them. This is easy to observe in everyday life. I currently work with high school students and have experience with college students and it's easy to see that they don’t think past the next weekend. Even in those who are older, such as young professionals, this is also true.

The purpose of this article is to take this ability to see the big picture versus having tunnel vision and relate it to three different areas—lifting, coaching, and athletics.

Story behind the title…

The idea for both the title and the article came to me the other day while listening to music in my car. I have a pretty diverse taste in music that involves some of the typical stuff you may expect such as metal, rap (the good kind that is pretty much dead, not the popular shit of about the past 10–15 years), and hardcore, but I also like classical, world music, and lots of other things that would get this too far off track. I was listening to a song by the rapper Cormega that had the line “Who you ridin’ with? Them or us? Deep love or cheap lust?”

This particular quote made me think about what that means. On the surface, most would equate it with the difference between a long-term relationship/marriage and banging some real “catch” who was probably in a drunken stupor when met in a bar parking lot after closing time. Those who can't see the big picture go with option B and don't have any consequences for their actions. They aren’t going to catch any shit because they don't have any real commitment to anything. Contrast this with someone who is already involved with option A going out and thinking that he can choose to partake in option B. Anyone involved with someone with any amount of self-respect can expect to get his ass dumped, divorced, or worse.

You might be wondering where this is going. This does have a point so bear with me for a second. In any type of training that is goal-oriented, there is always a bigger picture. You should always keep the bigger picture in mind to keep from getting sidetracked and possibly fucking up the end goal. Next, let's look at this from the perspective of the lifter, coach, and athlete.

In reference to the lifter…

This analogy can apply to a lifter depending on a few factors. The love (i.e. commitment) should always be the meet. Everything that is done should be for the purpose of performing on meet day, and training should be focused on improving the results on the platform. However, there are some lifters who live in the moment during every training session and can’t understand how to leave some in the tank at the right time. In this case, the training becomes the lust. For some, this is because they train too heavy or can’t get over the whole “I need to feel weight before the meet” mentality. You can't argue with the fact that heavy weights make you strong, but there's a problem if you're constantly running yourself into the ground and everything is a grind.

Often times, you might hear a lifter say, “I don’t get it. I got this weight in the gym a few weeks ago.” He probably shot his load on it and then was gassed going into the meet. As far as the whole “needing to feel it” thing, this could be individual, but let’s be honest here. Any weight that is truly going to be a max will most likely feel heavy. Imagine that.

Training can also become lust if you're competing too much with others in the gym instead of saving it for the meet. It doesn't do you any good to be the strongest guy in the gym in some cock-off that your buddy created if it doesn’t help you when meet time arrives. I'm not saying that you shouldn’t compete with others because competition is useful on important exercises. However, don’t be the idiot tapping yourself out one week from a meet in a single leg, 6/3/X tempo, lateral raise to failure that your boys came up with.

Training can also become lust if you push yourself harder in other lifts when your primary work for the day didn’t go so well. I've fallen into this trap many times when the movement that should be what I’m most focused on feels off. Rather than take a realistic look at my recovery to see if I need to just shut it down, I would do more volume in other movements to “make up” for my poor performance. If recovery is truly limited, this won't help anything.

In reference to the coach…

In the realm of coaching, the love versus lust continuum comes into play just like in lifting. It can vary depending on whether the coach only handles physical preparation or is a sport coach. However, in both realms, what always will matter most is what happens on game day or in competition. Head coaches aren't getting fired because of squat maxes, points aren't added to scores based on how clean a practice drill looks the week of the game, and championships aren't solely dependent on sprint times.

For coaches who only handle physical preparation, this “lust” usually occurs in the weight room. The commitment to general weight room exercises such as the squat, bench, clean, or anything else is one particular love affair that in reality is just lust. While it's important to have a measuring stick for general strength, the commitment shouldn’t be to making your athletes the best in these respective movements. No one is receiving a national championship because they averaged the biggest squats or cleans in the country. Another problem is doing everything to make an athlete better at the general lift without thinking about the big picture. If most of your time is dedicated to having athletes perform movements with limited power output because they are so inefficient at the movement, what is the point? I know the Olympic lifts are usually the sacrificial lamb for this argument, but all lifts can be equally responsible.

It's important to consider whether or not certain movements are contraindicated for the particular athlete or his sport. What good does it do to have a quarterback bench pressing at any excessive volume or intensity if it will fuck up his throwing? It's also important to consider how much time it's taking to test these general measures. While it's good for the coach to test so that he knows whether or not his program is working and whether or not the athlete is staying motivated, testing can take away from the training of the athletes to get them better at their actual sport. Furthermore, some coaches keep pushing the weight during these tests. It's important that you don't live in the moment as the coach or let the athlete live in the moment because if an injury were to occur, you might be scanning the classifieds in the near future.

For sport coaches, it's important to always remember the big picture—what will happen on game day. Many times coaches are unhappy with a particular drill, so they perform it over and over repeatedly, which may take away from more important aspects of the game. We had a coach who worked on our staff a few years ago. His particular lust was for ball drills that involved him whipping a football at his receivers at point blank range while screaming insults at them. Of course, he taught them nothing about running routes and blocking or what they needed to do in the offense. Low and behold, they couldn’t actually do anything worthwhile, and his ball drills were so different from the game, the athletes couldn’t catch for shit either.

Another example is when coaches have a particular style of play in their heads but don't have the players to do it. For instance, in football, an offensive coordinator might want to run an option-based offense, but he only has drop back quarterbacks. Or in basketball, a coach may want to run a full-court press but doesn’t have the players to do it. Coaches need to adapt the plan to the team for better game day results, not the other way around. While high-level coaches don’t necessarily deal with this, there are more limitations at the fundamental levels such as high school athletics.

Finally, lust occurs when the sport coach leaves the starters in when a game is out of reach. If a team is up by a substantial margin, there isn't any reason to leave starters in to keep running up the score. Instead, the athletes should be resting for more important competitions in the future.

In reference to the athlete…

For the athlete, lust can occur in a few ways. It could be an infatuation with certain measures that are advertised as being important. For this, I blame all the combine assholes who tell kids that they won’t get scholarships without an impressive showing at the Slapdick International Prep Combine held at a wonderful location like a parking lot off the interstate. While having a fast sprint time or impressive jump might help you get a couple looks, none of this matters if you aren’t actually skilled at the sport.

Every time a college coach talks to our staff about athletes, the first question he asks is about the actual game. We're never asked about lifts, sprint times, jumps, or medicine ball throws. Then he wants to know about an athlete's grades and character. Then, maybe he'll ask about lifts or sprints. Case in point, coaches don't want to invest thousands of dollars in scholarship money in someone who isn’t that good at the sport, is a lazy ass that won’t go to class, or is a dickhead who will make the program look bad.

While being fast, strong, or any other measure will definitely help, it isn’t the end all be all. It doesn’t matter if you can squat 900 pounds if you can’t block, make a tackle, hit a baseball, shoot a basketball, or do whatever else it may be in your sport. Most athletes get some information from either a friend of a friend or a recruiting website based on profiles filled out by the player or his parents about what he can do physically. All these numbers are suspect at best. Use your abilities to build toward getting better at your sport, and don't ever take those numbers as the sole measurement of athletic ability.

The other lust is over stats. While stats help in recruiting or getting noticed at the college level, don’t forget that quality of opponent as well as character come into play here. Coaches don’t want selfish players who care only about their stats. They want players who are actually contributing and following directions. So don't be the player who asks to stay in late in a blowout game to keep racking up the stats. While this may help hit certain marks, it's also a good way to get injured. Recruiters and scouts could give two shits about the touchdown scored with 1:37 left in the fourth quarter to make the score 70–17, but they will definitely notice if you blow an ACL trying to cut back on the same play.

Conclusion

Whether you're a lifter, coach, or athlete, it's important to not get caught up in the moment. No one will necessarily care how strong you were in one training session, how crisp your drills looked in practice, or what you ran at some knock-off combine. There is a big difference between the competitive lifter/athlete and the guy who just throws weights around at his gym or works out just to be in shape. The end goal or commitment should always be what all the training and practice build toward. While this may take some restraint in the short-term, in the long run, the bigger success will be much more meaningful.

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