Focus on Your 20%

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It's confession time: my name is Alex, and I'm a bit of a nerd.  Now, I doubt you often find people who brag about that, but being able to lift heavier things than most of the population has a way of making you comfortable with admitting certain details about yourself.

So, what's responsible for my nerdom?  Well, it's actually my new found love of books, which is something I wouldn't have touched about 2 years ago.  I really can't read enough, and my "Wish List" on Amazon always tends to stay above the 15-20 book threshold.

One book I recently finished is The One Minute Manager, where they state that 20% of your efforts are responsible for 80% of your results.  I'd like to argue that nowhere is this more true than in the gym.   The deadlifts, squats, pushes and pulls that make up your program are your 20%....everything else is just gravy.

As I've previously discussed, isolation movements and standard bodybuilding schemes are a waste of time....unless, of course, you are actually a bodybuilder.   


To put it simply, you don't see guys that can bench 300 pounds with "small arms."  You also never see guys that deadlift over 500 pounds that are on the "thin side."  The bigger lifts have a way of transforming your body and making sure that you're developing everything you need.  As I've recently started saying "lift heavier things, and you can become a heavier thing."

A good way to focus on the basics....while delivering some payback to those that curl in the squat rack.

A good way to focus on the basics....while delivering some payback to those that curl in the squat rack.

Next, bigger movements have much more of a carryover to real life.  I remember back to when we had our own version of "Snowmaggedon" in Boston this past February, as a storm dropped something like 25 inches of snow on the city.  Most of my clients needed to shovel (at least somewhat) in order to restore life back to normal, and the majority of them were able to do it without any subsequent back pain.  

Why?  We never practiced shoveling, but because we practiced all the fundamental human movements every workout, they knew how to hinge and stabilize without straining anything in their lower back.  Would they have known how to shovel correctly if we focused on bicep curls instead of deadlifts?  Perhaps, but that's an answer I prefer to leave unanswered.

 After you've mastered the basics of learning to squat, hinge, push and press, having your body learn "new movements" comes with diminishing returns.  Master the basics, as you can always be better at a particular exercise.  Whether that's adding more weight or performing that same weight with grace and elegance is up to you, but there's little value in being a jack of all trades.  Use the basics to focus on you goal and pursue it....relentlessly.