What do all strong athletes have in common?
Athletes have a competitive mindset that drives them to train hard, push boundaries, and never give up. There must be a common factor that makes for a successful athlete. TEAM PEAK athlete Bryan Dermody lists 7 components that makes for strong athletes.
In attempting to answer the above question people may call to mind several relatively obvious answers. Most people may think that all strong athletes work hard, that they all set, achieve and reset goals, and that they all display a certain consistency in the pursuit of those goals. Those are all good answers to our question, but I wanted to provide some answers that may not seem so obvious to the average person.
All strong athletes . . .
1. Train the BACKSIDE of their body
When a person walks into the gym and looks in the mirror what do they see? They see their pecs, biceps, quads, and abs. So, what do most people put an emphasis on in their training? You guessed it . . . pecs, biceps, quads, and abs. After all, everyone wants to know how big your bench is. Everyone wants to flex their biceps to show their arm development and hit that flexed quad pose to show their leg development. And of course, everyone wants to show off their six-pack. But if you look at the strongest athletes, they all have well-developed traps, lats, triceps, and posterior chain (low back, glutes, and hamstrings). That is because they train the back side of their body.
2. Train their WEAKNESSES
It is always fun to train an area of strength. After all, success breeds success. When I walk into a gym it is so tempting to “put on a show” by training my deadlift (a strength of mine). It is not nearly as soothing to my ego to train my bench press (a weakness of mine). But let’s face it, the strongest people in the world aren’t really weak in any area (just relatively weak compared to their strengths). And that’s because they train their weaknesses . . .consistently and hard!
3. Train MULTI-JOINT movements
Nobody ever got strong from training only single-joint movements, and it only makes sense. If, for example, I train my legs with leg extensions, I am only working my quads. If, however, I train my legs using back squats, I involve my quads, hamstrings, glutes, abductors and adductors, not to mention my core, upper back, and lower back. The more joints (i.e. muscles) involved, all else equal, the more effective at building strength a given movement will be.
4. EAT like it’s their JOB
If you want to be strong, then eating only when you are hungry and eating only to satisfy your taste buds is a thing of the past. You must also eat in order to get the necessary micro- and macro-nutrients that your body needs to recover and build muscle, and that means eating when you are not necessarily hungry and eating foods that may not taste great, but pack a nutritional punch.
5. Make the CORE A PRIORITY
It would not be an overstatement to say that there is not a single athletic movement that can be performed without the use of the “core” musculature. Sure, many people may train the core, but only as an afterthought.A couple of sets of crunches tagged on to the end of a workout and call it good. That may be sufficient to maintain a six-pack if one eats relatively clean. But that is not enough to be really strong. The core plays a major role in movements such as the power clean, snatch, squat, bench press, and deadlift. Train it often, train it hard, and train it multi-dimensionally (i.e. flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation, stabilization).
6. SLEEP like professionals
There is nothing that can positively or negatively affect the health, strength, and performance of the human body like sleep can (or lack thereof). Sleeping like a professional means that one doesn’t just get as much sleep as their work or social schedule will allow. It means that they organize their life in such a way as to ensure a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night.They also make sure that they don’t consume caffeine after 4pm, and don’t consume fluids after dinner.They keep their bedroom as dark as possible and maintain the temperature of their room between 60-68 degrees. They also avoid screen time two hours before bed, and that they often use supplements like magnesium glycinate to enhance sleep. In other words, they sleep like a professional.
7. Do the thing they DON’T want to do
If you’ve read this far, you understand that numbers 1-6 are not easy to do, and they especially are not easy to do consistently. But if you are in the pursuit of great physical strength, you will have to – at many points in your journey – do things that you do not feel like doing. We call this discipline – doing the thing you don’t feel like doing when it needs to be done. If you want to do something special, like becoming one of the strongest people on earth, you welcome this as commonplace in your life.
Bryan Dermody, Powerlifter & Former Strength & Conditioning Coach