When it comes to improving in the gym our culture seems to focus on, “GRIT.” Tell me if you’ve ever heard or thought any of the following…
- No Pain, No Gain…
- You just have to fight through…
- I just need to suck it up…
However, the Olympic Lifts are much different than your ordinary barbell movements because the Olympic Lifts are dependent on our nervous system.
Here is a quick video where I break it all down:
The nervous system simplified:
Think of the last time you went to the doctor and they used the rubber mallet to check your reflexes. The doctor allows your leg to dangle, and gives it a strong tap just below the knee. The doctor doesn’t want you to think, focus or force anything around the test. He wants to check the signal going from your knee to your spine and back… The process he is testing never reaches the brain!
Now, imagine turning over a snatch to receive it overhead. You must respond to the bar! There are similar components at play where our nervous system is responding vs. our brain thinking our way through it.
And, here is the kicker… You can NOT force the nervous system.
This is why in the sport of weightlifting athletes and coaches are very intentional about the stress the body receives around competition. The goal is to have the nervous system primed and revved up for the day of the competition. A miscalculation of this process in programming will lead to a mediocre day vs. a visit to PR city.
Grit – Forces you to train instead of recover
Now that you understand how the nervous system plays into the success of the Olympic lifts. Lets pretend your nervous system is beat up.
What is the best thing to do?
However, the culture of having grit tells you otherwise. Suck it up! Push through!
What does training on a beat up nervous system do?
- Trains poor movement pattern since you’re body is not moving as well as it normally does…
- Puts us a more risk of injury.
Be smart here. Go home. Rest. Come back and move well!
Grit – Puts our focus on the wrong variables
Grit can very easily encourage athletes to focus on the wrong variables. I must do everything in my program! I must do all the exercises as prescribed! All untrue…
A program in weightlifting is a guide. A best case scenario that will hopefully lead us to stronger movements. However, it cannot predict life outside the gym and life outside the gym affects the nervous system!
Is work stressing you out more than ever?
Issues at home?
These are significant factors that can tax your nervous system. And, in these cases, adjustments to the program to compensate for life will allow the athlete to have better results in the long run.
Here are the right variables to keep your focus on:
- Consistency – Be as consistent as you can with your training days.
- Intentional focus – Are you intentionally putting your focus into training?
- Your best on that given day – Again, life happens… if the best you have that day is 60% of what your true best is rested. Then bring your 60% and knowing you did what you could that day!
Grit – Is short term vs long term
“Live to fight another day…”
This was said to me countless times as I was told to stop during training. My grit wanted to push through… “I know I’m capable of this!”
However, I was lucky enough to have a coach who again would repeat, “Live to fight another day…” and send me home.
I continued to get better… quickly.
In the moment, a specific exercise or a specific day of training feels like everything. That is far from the truth! Becoming good at the Olympic lifts requires a long term approach.
Get a coach. Make a long term plan. A year from now… you will wish you started today…
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Drew is a co-owner or Project Lift and 14 year veteran of coaching athletes. As a coach, Drew has been a personal coach at the 2015 World Championship and has helped 2012 Olympian Holley Mangold through training from 2011 to 2016. He has also led multiple athletes to national competitions. As an athlete, Drew placed his highest of 4th at a national competition.