Alan Iverson, arguably one of the most talented stars to ever play in the NBA will be immortalized for the video above talking about practice. I have heard numerous stories as to how and why this video went down as it did, but regardless I couldn’t resist using it for this blog. For long term success in most things, there are few things that guarantee it except consistent and mindful practice. The goal of practice is to master the fundamentals and train on a program that focuses on incremental gains over a long period of time. Regardless of what Instagram shows you, it isn’t about going beast mode every session or setting PRs in training every week.
I have spoken to Olympians, world class coaches, and numerous professional athletes, each of them has re-iterated the same thing to me in our discussions, it’s about the fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. Some of the greatest athletes of all time seem to have one thing in common, unbreakable habits, and the drive to practice the fundamentals no matter how advanced they were in their career. Kobe, Larry Bird, Jordan and others all have amazing stories of how their practice habits made them the best. I’ll move on from basketball to strength training. It drives me crazy seeing decent lifters that want crazy rep schemes, bands, and chains without mastering the fundamentals. They still struggle with leg drive on the bench but somehow think adding bands or an advanced programs are going to fix it.
I see way too many powerlifters these days get sucked into so many different programs and methods that the fundamentals are lost. They are training consistently which is great, but fundamentals seem to get lost because they want to lift like that one beast they saw on their IG feed. They chase complexity rather than simplicity and consistency. Complexity has it’s place, but if you lack mastering the fundamentals those tools will not be impactful anyway.
PRACTICE HOW YOU COMPETE
I watch lifters warm up sometimes, and all I can do is shrug my shoulders. I have never understood the sense of someone bouncing a 225lb or 315lb deadlift off the ground like a trampoline and then not complete a lockout at the top while they are warming up. I watched a guy once bounce 405 off the ground (with bumpers) for 12 repetitions. The reality was, he couldn’t even deadlift 475 x 1. All that bouncing didn’t carryover to lifting more weight.
The same goes for rushed / shortened range of motion warm up reps on the bench press that look like you are having a seizure. Im not sure if it is an act to show strong they are or if it is just being in a hurry to warm up. The reality is, you always revert to your training. When you are tired, exhausted, and stressed your body will revert to what it knows best. That is why at the end of a long meet day you see a lifter shoot their hips up in the air, the bar gets away from them, and they totally miss a deadlift they should have made. They reverted back to their training even though they don’t want to think so. It wasn’t a fluke or a misgroove, that is a representation of how you lift. There is a way to miss a lift like a pro and a novice.
If you are strong, you spend a considerable amount of training time warming up to your working sets. Those warm up sets add up to a good amount of training volume and should be considered practice for heavier working weights. Use those sets to create habits or traditions of each lift. When warming up with the bar, practice how you place your hands in the same position every single time you set up. Practice foot position and how you place your feet. Master breathing timing and lifting mechanics with each rep. Sure, you won’t be applying the same amount of force and tension to a bare bar as you would a max load, but the focus and intention is the same.
I remember hearing Eddy Coan, one of the greatest powerlifters of all time talk about warming up in an interview .. He said
“I treated light weights like I did heavy weights. So, it was always the same weight done. I could walk out a weight. I could walk up to a deadlift, set up for a bench. Everything was exactly the same, all the time. So, that variable was already gone. So, there was no negative thought walking up to the bar. I didn’t need to be slapped, or need ammonia, or anything like that, ’cause I was confident.”
Unfortunately our Instagram feed only shows the things that appear to be exciting.
The other aspect that smart practice brings is that of injury prevention. I can’t count the times I have heard lifters tell me about an injury and the story goes something like….”It wasn’t even heavy, but I tweaked my shoulder re-reacking the weight” Again this is many times not focusing on the fundamentals. How we un-rack and rack the bar are all part of our practice. One of my most aggravating back injuries happened when rushing to walk in 50% of my max squat back into the rack. I rushed and slammed the bar into the rack and the rebound caused me to twist with a heavy enough loaded bar. I knew better and it taught me a valuable lesson into smart practice.