Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What Are Your Goals?

This is kind of a random post, so please bear with me. I had a short conversation the other day with my good friend Will that centered around the topic of squats.

More specifically, this was regarding Will's own squat performance. He has been doing the programs that I write for him, which contains a metric shit-ton of front squats: tempo, pauses, 1.5 reps and anything else you can think of. Turn your weakness into a strength, I always say. 

Well, for some time Will has had a bit of an ankle mobility issue. I forget if it's just something he was born with or if it is something that he has incurred over time because of injuries and whatnot. I know he has been doing a lot to try and open up that area with limited success. Another point about William is that he is a dyed-in-the-wool barefoot guy. He basically lives by the book Born To Run and was enamored with Chris McDougall when he got the opportunity to meet him at a seminar I hosted a year ago. 

I believe the conversation started because Will mentioned that he felt his ankle mobility was a limiting factor in his squat performance (Dude, correct me if I'm wrong). I suggested he go buy a pair of Olympic lifting shoes and start getting some plates on the bar. The conversation then turned to footwear; Will stating that he felt that Oly shoes were a form of "cheating" and that he'd like to be able to improve his ankle mobility instead. Fair enough. 

This is where I asked the earth-shattering question: "What are your goals? If your goal is to get brutally strong, then you should get some Oly shoes and get stronger rather than waiting for your mobility to catch up."

Is it cheating? Only if you're planning on competing in an ankle mobility contest. Can I understand why someone would like to improve their mobility at any joint? 100% I can, especially Will who is an avid kettlebell user. Per the norm, he trains KB's barefoot, which means his squat suffers due to the mobility. Well, I don't understand why you would give up getting strong with a barbell and a KB while waiting for your ankle to catch up. 

In this case, my suggestion was to get a heel lift of some sort for his main lift (squats) so that he wasn't being limited by something as trivial as ankle mobility and could continue making gainz. Then, for assistance work/kettlebells, feel free to revert to bare feet or minimalist shoes. This is something that I've done for a while and I find that it provides a great balance between the two worlds.

A similar question I fielded recently was by a client/friend who intimated that she felt mixed-grip deadlifting was a form of cheating. Again, if your goal is to get that lift as strong as possible, you're going to need to mix-grip. There are very few really strong deadlifters who pull double-overhand. 

This also lends itself as a good time to mention that small changes in the way you train can result in huge differences down the road. If you always squat in Oly shoes, do your assistance stuff barefoot. If you always bench with your thumbs on the smooth, try a month with your pinkies on the smooth. Instead of doing a DB goblet squat, use two kettlebells. The possibilities are endless, but any small change in the status quo can make a big difference when you return to your lift of choice.

I hope this post made sense! If not, re-read and try again! Have a great day, and go lift something heavy!

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