Article written for LiftBigEatBig.com by Brian Cavanaugh
“All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.” –Bruce Lee Recently, I decided that it was time for me to set new goals for my physical fitness program. I decided that I needed to train and eat in the most professional manner of my life to break the current plateau. I also realized that I needed to start really training my weaknesses versus continuing to strictly develop my strengths. This decision led me to hiring a trainer from the competitive Crossfit community, reading the blogs of Lift Big Eat Big, studying the doctrines of Powerlifting gurus, examining different nutritional plans and chatting with a holistic health nutritionist. One thing that I discovered through my research is that there are many systemsfor both nutrition and fitness protocols. And, many of the systems and people that follow them are very loyal and strict to their specific system. During a discussion with one fitness professional, she said, “I don’t eat ”that“ because it’s not paleo.” And, when I spoke to a recent convert to Crossfit, he said he doesn’t want to workout with Powerlifters anymore because he NOW does Crossfit. So, I realized that many people are restricting themselves and their clients to only one modality and rejecting all other systems as if one system invalidates another. As humans, we like to put specific titles on ourselves and our beliefs and classify them for identification purposes.
Truth be told, Olympic Lifting coaches will give you the best coaching for those movements; power lifting, gymnastics, swimming, running coaches will all know best about their specialties. And, yes, even major meat heads like us can learn important nutritional tidbits from the holistic vegan specialist. Am I saying become vegan? Hell no. I am saying that a vegan can teach us things like how to use probiotics, spices, herbs and various other health and performance enhancing strategies. Unless you are an elite specialist of a certain sport, I suggest not becoming a specialist by default. Too many of us, myself included, will focus too much time and effort on only one or two muscle groups–or even worse, one or two movements. For me, it was the bench press and back squat. Instead, become an elite generalist. As a lifter and fitness person, aim to be a decathlete versus a sprinter. Either hire a professional or ask a trusted friend who is a fitness professional to give an honest assessment of both your physique and your lifting program. Classify the things that you are great at, average at, mediocre at or even non-existent at and then create a plan to fix it. Seek proportionate strength ratios for all the muscle groups. Make sure that your hamstrings are developed in proportion to your quads and your rear delts and traps are in proportion to your chest and front delts. Simply stated: Train your weakness and maintain your strengths. I am challenging all of you to be more like the legend Bruce Lee and not restrict yourself to any one formal system of anything. If your goal is to be the most well rounded and fit athlete that you can be, then open your mind and heart to anything and everything that is of use to you when designing your program. Don’t abandon years of wisdom and experience just because you make some new discovery. Yet, don’t defend doing what you have always done just because it’s what you have always done. The one rule that all of us should follow is this: if it works to support our goals then do it. If it does not have value in our program, then don’t do it. Our loyalties should never be to a system, but rather to ourselves.
Brian has participated in Karate and weightlifting for the past 25 years, and has been worked as a fitness club manager and personal trainer for the past 15 years. He is currently on a mission to become the biggest and baddest Spartan on the East coast.