Sometimes the Little Things DO Matter

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We’ve all heard the adage, “don’t sweat the small stuff.”  Taking it a step further, we’ve even gone so far as to say – at least in the gym setting – that those people who focus more on the minutia are doing nothing more than spinning their wheels.  

Take for example the guy who walks into the gym at 150 lbs soaking wet, and has always struggled to put on weight.  Rather than, you know, walk over to the squat rack and use it for its intended purpose (squats), he sets up shop to get his bicep curl on – usually spending an entire hour training a muscle the size of a tennis ball.  Makes a lot of sense, right?

Or, what about the female who, despite being 15 lbs overweight and admittedly sick and tired of always trying to lose those extra pounds, walks into the gym and spends the next 60 minutes on the elliptical machine watching Days of Our Lives

Conventional wisdom would tell her that despite what the machine says, she didn’t just burn 750 calories (for the record, you’re an idiot if you really think those machines are accurate), and that her time would have been better spent performing some form of resistance training and interval work.  And, even more importantly, it probably wouldn’t hurt if she skip the Dunkin Donuts pit stop afterwards.  Just sayin…….

Basically, in short, when it comes to exercise, or life in general for that matter, people tend to spend the bulk of their time focusing on the small, intricate things that probably won’t even matter in the first place.  Like the guy who’s struggling to put weight on, yet is concerned about his bicep peak; or the girl who’s struggling to take weight off, yet has been doing the same, boring, cardio routine since 1998.

At the expense of back pedaling a little bit, though, sometimes, focusing on the small things does make a difference. 

Much like a director spending half the day trying to perfect the lighting to get that one aesthetic shot on camera; or the nuclear physicist triple checking his math to make sure the world doesn’t shit itself; or just doing something as simple as trapping your fart underneath the covers as sign to your significant other that you love them – it’s the small things can make all the difference in the world.

The world of strength and conditioning is no different.   I can’t tell you how many times during the day I tell someone to tuck their chin while deadlifting, to sit back more on their squats, or to stop shrugging during their seated rows FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY!!!!!!!

People want to train hard, and I can respect and appreciate that.   Hell, I want that; I strive for that.  But oftentimes, when the “go hard or go home” mentality starts to take over, the little things tend to get thrown to the wayside.

Knees start caving in on squats.  Elbows start flaring out during benching.  Backs start to round just a smidge more during deadlifts.  Athletes start compensating with more lumbar rotation during med ball drills.  It’s a slippery slope to take, and one that I’m not too comfortable traveling down as a coach.

The last thing I want is for another coach or trainer to walk into our facility and freak the freak out when he or she watches our athletes train.   Kinda like what would happen if I walked in and saw this circus going on.  Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

So, in the end, I guess all I’m trying to say is this:  While it’s true that many people tend to place too much emphasis on minutia – as coaches, it’s often what’s needed in order to be successful in the long run.  Sometimes, the small things DO matter.

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  • Nate

    Brilliant, loved the shout-out to film too.

  • Peter

    LOL Guess that video shows an interesting new take on medicine ball slams! Is that functional training to be able to take a spanking?

  • Mike A

    What. Just. Happened. in that video.

    that was ri-goddamn-diculous.

  • Fleisher

    Some mighty fine techniques in that video. saw that elsewhere last week but was listed under “top 100 videos of the week to watch” or something on the blog…yeesh. love the guy thats humping the floor on the pushups, solid form there. Good post Tone Loc.

  • Laura

    Perfect timing reminder for me. No donuts then, huh. Interesting.

  • Chris

    do those medicine ball squats on that video remind anyone else of the medical marijuana episode of south park? you know the one when randy marsh microwaves his nuts to give himself cancer…

  • cheryl c

    Uh, I think I need therapy after seeing that video – putting something up there that ugly was just cruel Tony! (Don't make me send you some awesome commercial clips of Tracy Anderson knitting her muscles).

  • Brian

    As a CrossFit trainer, I cringe when I see the beautiful simplicity of “Cindy” butchered like that.

    This is what gives a good program a bad name.

  • Derrick Blanton

    Tony, I've seen that tuck your chin on DL's advice before, and I was wondering if you could explain the rationale.

    I watched Eric's 650-DL, and he is clearly extending his neck. I must confess I extend my neck every time. (Just not with 650 :)) To me, it just feels like the body will follow where the head is looking. And also like the whole hip to head lever shortens.

    I also extend my neck when squatting. How bad a habit is this? I don't know if I can break it at this point, to be honest.

  • Derrick,

    It's a cervical spinal alignment issue – I could go into further detail, but I wouldn't be doing it justice. By far and wide the best 'break down' of it all that I've seen was by Charlie Weingroff here –

    http://charlieweingroff.com/2010/11/packing-in-the-neck/

  • Tony Gentilcore

    @ James: THANK YOU!!! I totally forgot that Charlie discussed this in depth. Thanks for the link.

    And, on an aside, not tucking your chin during a max effort 650 lb lift is quite different compared to someone pulling 225 for a few easy reps.

  • Derrick Blanton

    @James: Thanks for the link. I will study up.

    @Tony: I thought about that as well. And seems like if it's a dangerous technique, it would be even more dangerous with heavier loads (ala Cressey 650).

    Could Eric have pulled that weight with a tucked chin? Or to put it another way, did extending his neck help his leverage, albeit dangerously so?

  • JMJ

    Ummm, that video…double U….T….Eff.

  • James

    No worries, Tony – I'll be here all week…