Feb 14, 2022

The Athleticism Fairy

"Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide. -Marcus Tullius Cicero

Today I read a question of someone wanting to know...

"In you guys opinions is Front squat the best exercise for speed & Athletic performance"

Piss poor grammar aside, let's get at it.

Maybe since it was February 14th and the day the fictional character cupid goes around shooting the arrow of love into people, the asker of the question perhaps believes there is an athleticism fairy.

There is no such thing as the athleticism fairy and she therefore can't give you athleticism via an exercise. If there was such an exercise, people would just do that exercise and play in the NBA, the MLB, NHL, NFL or any league or sports organization. All you have to do is want it bad enough and put in the time, right?

Sorry to burst your bubble, but someone has to, and the sooner the better so you can get a grasp on reality and take control of the things you actually have control over.

For a long time (decades) there have been factions that think certain lifts make you athletic. It's a chicken egg scenario. Which came first? Let's say you are very good a a movement in the weight room and also a very good athlete. Did you suck at athletics until you reached a certain proficiency in the movement you excel in. Chances are the first time you tried the movement in the weight room, you were stronger than most at it.

Now you are a stand out on the field. Someone watches your work out and sees you doing that movement in the weight room that you naturally excel at. They see that and immediately think your performance on the field is from that lift. They let others know the magic exercise you do that makes you a super star. Now every one that wants to be a super star does the exercise too. Of course all others become super stars too. Oh wait... that isn't what happened.

Athletes are born, not made. The hard work they do simply polishes to a high level the inherent physical abilities they have potential for. Repeat that until you believe it, because it's true. You will not stand out at college or any higher level without being born with genetic gifts that allow you to excel in that activity.

Most are not blessed genetically. How do we know? If it was all about hard work and "want to", an NFL team would only have to pay 100k per year for a top flight quarterback as so many want to be top flight quarter backs and work really hard to be top flight quarter backs.

The reality is that top level quarterbacks make millions ever year because there are so few. With a population near 9 billion on the planet, a salary in the millions, certainly the job is attractive enough to have a few folks wanting to be a quarterback and working at it really really hard, right? Yet the annual salary remains in the millions. Salaries are driven by supply and demand. Demand is so high and supply is so low that the salaries stay where they are.

So to become more athletic which lifts do you recommend?

Your reading comprehension is low if you are asking that question at this point.

The only correct answer is to strengthen the muscles used by the activity you want to excel at and then use that new strength when you practice the activity. You will improve your athleticism ONLY to the point that a lack of strength was stopping your potential.

Lets use an example. You play football as an offensive lineman and the average starting lineman can squat 600lbs. Your squat is 400. Chances are you will be a better lineman if you can get your squat to 600lbs because your strength relative to other starting lineman is low.

Now lets assume all lineman squat 600 lbs. Are all of them starters? Of course not. Why are people that are equally strong all not starters? Because of skill and inherent athletic ability. Skill can be improved. You do drills, learn to block better, read your opponents and so on.

Now let's further assume all lineman squat 600lbs AND have equal skill. All must be starters then, right? Again, NO. Now we arrive at athleticism. But what is that? Three of the big factors of athleticism are power, quickness and coordination.

But Ima get hella strong and squat 800, then I will be a starter

Additional strength only goes so far. I have read that many second stringers in the NFL are in fact stronger than the starters in many of the key movements envisioned as "athlete makers" Things like squats, cleans, sled push/pull, hip thrust, you name it. At some point additional strength doesn't mean much because, it's one factor in the equation and not the most important. People cling to strength as the answer because that is one of the few factors they have control over.

Strength is a factor of power, but speed is as well. How fast your nervous system can send a signal to a muscle to contract and how rapidly that muscle responds and contracts is NOT trainable. It's genetically predetermined. I hope you chose good parents because that is the only way to improve that quality. Speed and coordination are largely the same.

No matter how much you want to believe in "functional" exercises and the athleticism fairy, you are going to come up empty.

Don't take my word for it though. Keep seeking the magic exercise and magic workout and pounding your head against the wall. Go ahead and wonder why you can squat 700lbs on the second string, but the starter only squats 550. However, he has a 34 inch vertical jump, but yours is 26.

He has adequate strength and the necessary power. You have excess strength and inadequate power. So he is on the field making big money and you are not. But you are stronger, you have that. You can always tell others you are stronger than the starter. And if you are really stupid you will keep looking for the secret exercise to increase your athleticism.

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