This post continues our discussion about SEALFIT Basic Training. One of our key outcomes with our WOD program is to develop functional, relative strength. In my last post, I defined strength as the ability of muscles to apply force. Strength is often trained with power lifting movements such as a deadlift or back squat and is often benchmarked with one rep max efforts.
Building a base of solid functional strength makes you a more durable athlete, warrior, and person. You’ll be able to carry heavier loads for longer periods of time and be of much greater value to your team. You will be less likely to break under pressure, whether physical or mental.
In our SEALFIT Operator WOD program strength training is done a minimum of four days a week. Although I will change up our formula occasionally, we are now focused on four primary power lifts: those with a lower body muscle recruitment focus (the back squat), upper body focus (the bench press and push press) and total body focus (the deadlift).
But we know that functional strength goes beyond just picking up, squatting or pushing loaded barbells. So I like to cycle in supplemental strength training using less familiar methods such as weighted pull-ups and pistols, overhead squats, front squats and Olympic lifts. Overall by focusing on the core lifts, and supplementing with the other non-essentials, we develop awesome functional, relative strength over time.
As it is with all aspects of SEALFIT training, the number one priority in our strength training is to start by mastering the basics of the movements and the mobility to do them without injuring yourself. Before you can safely and smartly increase the loads in your workouts, and shoot for PR’s that you are proud of, you have to acquire and understand, at a whole person level, fundamentally sound technique.
First things first – you simply must check your ego at the door when you get started on the SEALFIT path. Big ego equals big fail – for two important reasons.
The first is to avoid injury from moving more load than your structured to handle. Even though your mind and muscles may be able to do that 400lb deadlift, without building the underlying structure, skill and mobility you could easily be sidelined, and quickly. This risk increases exponentially if you’re trying to out-do, or even simply try to keep up with a teammate who is more advanced than you. Rather, you need to work carefully and mindfully with lighter loads—while improving your mobility. Remember: Crawl, walk then run.
Second, strength training is for long-haul truckers (err SEALFITTers). Going from zero to hero will not make you stronger or harder to kill. Rather, it will cost you in long term performance to not master the basics. You’re only going to get so far and you will keep getting sidelined due to unnecessary injuries.
Let’s take the back squat as an example. The best way to build a foundation for the back squat is to first master the air squat. The air squat is sometimes regarded a warm-up movement. And to be fair it is a great warm-up exercise, but the fact is a good number of athletes come to SEALFIT Academy or Kokoro camp and can’t do a proper air squat. These athletes typically have big mobility restrictions or have trained with improper form and can’t get their hips below parallel knees, their body position is like the hunchback or they have ankle mobility issues, or their knees track dangerously forward of their midline and/or inward. And so on. And if they (you?) can’t do a good air squat correctly and consistently, then what do you think will happen when you add a barbell with load? Nothing good, that’s for sure!
This scenario is played out with most of the lifts. About the only one that folks seem to know is the bench press because it is featured so prominently in old-school gym workouts – but even that exercise has a lot of nuances in the basics if you want to improve.
Anyhow – it’s this “master the basics and become skilled before you push the envelope” mindset that I want you to have when it comes to building your SEALFIT strength: Give your complete attention to mastering and re-mastering the basic movement patterns, not unlike how you’ll see the best martial artists attend daily to the seemingly most basic fundamentals. Work on your mobility every day as well (check out Kelly Starrett’s Mobility WOD or do Warrior Yoga drills) Trust me that this patient work will pay off both in the long term strength performance gains, and also your overall mental strength and durability.
Be sure to visit the SEALFIT Youtube Channel for tons of great information on how to develop a deep foundation of skill in your training program.
Train hard, get strong and Hooyah!
P.S. If you’re interested in taking the first steps toward mastering the full-range of SEALFIT training principles and programming, you should join my elite coaching team and me at SEALFIT HQ, November 14-15, for the Basic Training Certification. Click Here to learn more.