Building Resiliency: It is Sometimes Sucking it Up

Written by Kevin Cann


Every coach and personal trainer out there wants to tell every lifter that their methods can increase performance while decreasing injury risk.  They may believe this, but I am going to tell you that it is absolute bullshit.


I know, because I used to say and believe those things.  This was when I was explaining everything going wrong with a mechanical explanation. Your hip hurts?  Let us do this series of tests you have never attempted and see what we can find.


You struggle standing on one leg, so it must be a lack of hip stability.  Grab an Airex pad and we will exercise in a kneeling position until you feel better.  The combination of any movement and time would take care of the issue and I would assume I was a genius.


Problem with this is that I was not building resiliency.  Instead I was basically deloading for large periods of time. This is not increasing performance or decreasing injury risk.  I see this far too often in my experiences in this field.


I was like this too, but we are confident we have all the answers and we need someone to tell. Unfortunately the person we tell ends up being someone paying money for our ignorance.  This makes it hard to move a field forward and have people take us seriously.


Increasing performance and resiliency both require the exact same thing.  They are not two separate pieces, but instead one in the same.  We achieve both by navigating hard training appropriately with the right frame of mind.


Resiliency is as much, if not more, of a mental aspect as it is physical preparation.  You build resiliency through education and high exposure to hard training.  Changing expectations and beliefs about pain is a part of this educational process.


The relationship between the coach and athlete is huge here.  Through conversation, the coach and athlete can make the best decisions for training on that given day for that athlete.  This may mean pushing through some pain as this builds resiliency.


We don’t just train hard no matter what.  We talk, make a decision, and if the athlete is psychologically and physically capable of hitting it hard that day, we hit it hard.  We plan to train hard every single day we enter the gym.


Our training hard is a matter of intensity.  We plan to hit 1 to 2 hard sets at an RPE 8.5 or higher.  I would rather it be higher here than lower.  We mostly work in the 9.5 range in training.


We do not plan light days. We allow those to self-organize.  Performance tends to take care of that for us. Warming up, things feel like shit, we hit what we can that day and just move on.  You will be surprised with what people are capable of when they let go of these preconceived beliefs that aren’t backed up by observation or research.


I will actually program exercises that I know the lifters do not like and may not believe that they actually work.  This is to teach them how to get their head’s right going into training.  As I put on Alyssa’s program, it is an emotional challenge.


Coaches will argue “Lifter’s beliefs matter!”  No one understands that more than me.  I give the lifters far more freedom than any other coach that I know.  This does not mean that those beliefs dictate training.


This is learning to train the mind before we get started.  We will often come into the gym feeling like shit because life didn’t go our way today.  We can’t control many of those aspects, but when it is time to train, it is time to pull up the knee sleeves, tighten the belt, and forget about that bullshit.


There is only one thing that matters at this given time and it is executing the lifts in front of us. A poor attitude or focus on the negative aspects of life while we train, can decrease the adaptations training can bring and also increase our risk for injury.


If you want to increase performance and decrease injury risk, you got to learn how to deal with your shit.  You need to learn that your body is capable of far more than we think.  1 to 2 hard sets each training day is not something that the body can’t handle as long as the loads are gradually increased over time.


Get rid of your foam roller, your balloon, and your special warmups.  Spend a few minutes getting your head right to attack training to get the most out of it.  This may mean a quick conversation with your coach before you get started.


As you put your gear on, you have an opportunity here to direct that focus.  Warming up with the empty bar allows us to increase that focus through feeling the bar in our hands and our back and start getting into the positions we need to move the most weight on this given day.


Those performing special exercises, foam rolling, “unlocking their potential”, or any of the other bullshit out there are literally holding themselves back.  These can decrease performance and increase injury risk by making the lifter think they need “fixing” or “activating” before they train.


The resiliency goes to some external piece, this includes things like RPR, when the person is doing it to themselves.  The body is ready to gradually increase loads upon entering the gym.  We just need to get the mind ready to do the same.

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