Under the Bar - Risk Management

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Under the Bar
Elite Fitness Systems was founded with the purpose to provide strength coaches, athletes and trainers with the highest quality equipment, personalized service, and knowledge needed to advance their training programs to the next level. This was not an easy task to undertake in an industry known for inferior equipment, bad customer service, and representatives with little or no training knowledge. I knew from the beginning that EFS had to be a value – based company geared with a vision to empower success through personal achievement. To accomplish this we set up a group a core values that guide every decision we make as a company and individuals. Courage, namely the management of risk is one of these values with hold in high regard.

Risk is defined as:
1. The possibility of suffering harm or loss; danger.
2. A factor, thing, element, or course involving uncertain danger.
3. One considered with respect to the possibility of loss.

At EFS we define risk as a key factor to be managed for the successful development of strength, business and life. As with all other key success factors, I first learned the value of risk management “Under the Bar”.

Five Types of Risk
Creating an outline for this article turned out to be more difficult than the other “under the bar” articles. Risk is one factor that can and will make or break you. There are many types of risks you can take and trying to organize them in an easy way is not as easy as you may think. Through my research I came across an article by Brian Tracy is regards to taking risks. There I found my article. Brian outlined five types of risks:

1. The risk you do not take.
2. Unnecessary risk
3. Risk you can afford to take
4. Risk you can’t afford to take
5. Risk you can’t afford to NOT take

While I was reading his article “Taking Smart Risks” I was reminded of how all of these were first taught to me under the bar and have stayed with me through the success of Elitefts.com. Taking smart and educated risks are a very vital factor in your success in the weight room, business and life. Most of us are all very aware of the risks we take in the weight room and understand when we can push it and when we can back off. The real key is to take what we have all learned in the weight room and begin to place labels on it to be used in other areas of our life. At the same time there are still many of us who can use a reminder of the risk management associated with the weight room. Gaining a better understanding of the five types of risk can make a huge difference on what happens with your training.

The risk you do not take

You all know how this goes. You hear about some new jack up power lifting equipment or training method. You would like to give it a shot but your training is going great and you do not see the need to change something that is already working so well. So you do the next best thing. You find someone else to try it for you, and then you wait and see how it works out. On the other side of this issue is the lifter who is too quick to take the risk without looking at all variables. I see this all the time with power lifting gear, especially bench press shirts. Lifter A has been training with his new bench shirt for the past 12 weeks and then three weeks before the meet he decides to switch back to his old brand of shirt and give it a test run to only find out that his form has changed to suit the shirt he has been training in. His training has been great and he is three weeks out from a meet. This is a risk he did not have to take and should have held off until after the meet. There are a number for people out there who always want to have the next greatest thing on the market and want it as soon as it comes out. This is a great and should be commended but timing has to be taking into consideration.

Let’s look at it from another perspective. I have been reading and hearing about how great static ISO training is for strength development. Rather then dump what I have been doing and jumping on the bandwagon I have been sitting back to see what the real results will turn out specific to my own training needs. So I have decided to not take the risk because I do not have to. I know there will be hundreds of other lifters who will jump on and test it out. As it turns out it is a good thing I waited it out because the results have not been there and my training has been advanced with each week while those who have tested this method have not made the same progress I have. This was a risk I did not have to take to advance my training.

The unnecessary risk

The unnecessary risk are those that will not have any impact on the goals you are trying to achieve and more than likely will not move you closer to them. These are the risks that may seem important to one party but are not as important to the other. A great example of this comes to mind when I think of our current software situation at Elitefts.com. We are running a few different business systems that have been working very well for us. A few months ago I decided to take a look at a few different programs designed for internet – mail order businesses. There were a few I found very interesting that would help us solve some of problems we have had with accounts receivable, sales and inventory. As with everything these days, these solutions were all very expensive. All of the sales representatives were pushing very hard for us to make the switch to their software solutions saying that we could not function effetely without them. The one thing I did know is that sales are slow in the summer, steel prices were going up, and holiday season is coming and would require us to stock up our inventory. I also knew that expenses were not going to drop with the sales. I also knew that the new system would take time to generate any extra revenue, if they would at all. When it was all said in done, this was an unnecessary decision that is best left to a later time. After further analysis we created new in house solutions to our problems and did not have to spend a dime. Had I taken the risk without future research we would be having serious cash flow problems.

Training is much the same. If things are going good and someone suggests you try something new, you need to take inventory on where you are at, what you could gain and what the loss may be if it does not work out. If you do not do this then the outcome could lead to disastrous results leading to over training, under training, loss of technical skills or injury.

Risk you can afford to take

This is the best risk of all. Let’s say for example money is not an issue and you are 16 weeks out from your next power lifting competition and you would like to try out the new Metal Viking gear. This is no problem, all you have to do is place the order, wait for the gear and give it a shot. If it works as well for you as it has for others then you are very pleased, if it does not then no big deal give EliteFTS a call and they will be more than happy to refund the money (as long as you did not trash the gear). So the risk is very minimal and you can afford it because you are trying the new gear far enough in advance of your meet that you will have time to train in and perfect the grove of the gear.

Risk you can’t afford to take

Training for any competition is full of risks you should and should not have taken. A great example was the last heavy bench session I had before my last meet. My training had been going great and I was breaking PR’s left and right the whole cycle. While working up with my shirt on this given day I began to feel my right pec begin to tighten up. I worked up to 575 for a single and wanted to finish the day at 635. Based on how I felt and how my training had been going I decided that the next set was a risk I could not afford to take this close to the meet, so I called it a day. I see many lifters and athletes in this situation that choose to press on and then have to pull out of the competition because of something stupid they did 10 days out. I strongly believe that if you had not done your training up to the last 10 days then there is nothing you can do that will help you gain more than you already have, except rest. There is nothing you can do training wise that will make you that much stronger BUT there is a hell of a lot you can do that can make you weaker or injured.

Risk you can’t afford to NOT take

I have trained in a denim bench shirt for the past 12 years and have always thought that they were the way to go. The problem was I have been seeing lifters get crazy carry-overs out of their shirts and I was only getting 80 pounds (this may seem like a lot for some but I know guys who are getting 300!) I figured if I was not getting 250 out of my shirt then I had better get to work. I had to decide for the time being to only focus on learning the shirt and perfect my technique in the shirt. This was going to be at the expense of many things I knew makes me stronger. So for the time being things like triceps work had to go on the back burner. I know that to get 160 pounds stronger on the bench is hard as hell to do and requires a ton of work, but to get 160 pounds stronger with a shirt that works would only take a fraction of this time. Being that I have an intensive injury history, and having access to any Metal shirt I would need, I decided that this was a risk I could not afford to NOT take. I still have some work to do but within three months working with my Viking shirt I almost made a competition bench of 700 that would have been a 90-pound personal record and a 240-pound carry over. Being that I missed the weight short of lockout on one arm and had a hell of a time getting the weight to touch I still need to risk a bit more but not at the expenses of the extra strength work I had given up over the past three months.

Risk or Risk Not

This has been the hardest “Under the Bar’ I have had to write because while there are five types of risk that are very easy to define they are very hard to assign stories to them as what may seem like a huge risk you can’t afford to take may end up being the risk you can’t afford not to take. The best example I can think of for this is a board press session I had a few months ago. We were all using a one board to get a gauge of where we were all at (the one board has always been the same or very close to what I can bench in a meet). My best at the time was 605 and I would have been happy with 615. This was also my second time in my Viking bench shirt and the 605 was with my double denim (this shirt was not a metal denim but one I felt worked very well for me). As we worked up things felt great and I had the groove of the shirt down. I worked up to 635 and killed the weight. For me I was done for the day. This was a great PR and I could not see any benefit of going up any higher as my goal for the next meet was going to be right around 635. That was all good until Jim and Todd got on me to take another weight. They convinced me to take one more lift and I felt 655 would be a good place to jump to. Jim politely informed me that he would not lift out anything less than 700 pounds. Then Todd started in and I began to feel put on the spot and did not want to look like a chump so I agreed. I also can’t lie, my only real intention was to lower the weight to the board and have them pull it off. What the hell else can you think when you are faced with a 95 pound PR. As I got ready to bench I switch modes and began to feel if I am going to try this then I am going to make damn sure I give it every thing I have plus some. So after a few smelling salts, kick over a few board press boards and ranting like a madman I made the weight. It was after this lift I started looking to 700 instead of 635. At this point 635 was now a joke to me and nothing under 700 will do. Granted I had and have a shirt that works very well for me but this was defiantly a risk I could NOT afford not to take.

Too Bad, Get Over It

The key with risk is how well you manage it and keep it in proper perspective. You have to risk being successful but this does not mean that you have to take stupid risks. You have to know when to risk and not to risk and when you feel it is a time to not risk then this is the time you really need to start questioning yourself and find out why this is a time to not risk. If all you every do is risk inside you comfort zone then you will continue to just continue. You have to take some big risks to move forward and you know what? Many of these big risks will not work out for you. As a matter of fact most of the time they wont. For all those who say, “I know what you are saying but the last time I put it on the line I got hurt”. My advice, Too Bad! Tough shit! Get Over It! I do not care about what did not work for you, or hurt you or whatever you want to say. All I care about is what can work for you and not risking will never get you where you want to be. Complaining about what you do not have, or the strength you wish you had is all bullshit and a total waste of your time (as well as any one else you share it with). Find out what you want and go after it. If you are faced with a decision that places you out of your comfort zone then analyze the risk and move on.

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