When you’ve trained for as long as we have - as either an athlete, a weightlifter, or a fitness enthusiast - you most likely have begun to see a divide emerge between the different disciplines. Those disciplines each have their own purpose, whether it be normal day-to-day fitness, strength training, or training for a sport specific purpose.
It has always been in good fun, but the truth is it has created a myriad of stereotypes. It has evolved into segmenting athletes into strict categories that have held back their potential for generations.
Here we are, in the midst of 2020 (AKA total chaos), and our country is being divided - aggressively. Political parties, constitutional rights, gender identities, safety and health concerns, law enforcement, race - you name it. We’re the least united we’ve ever been, it is almost as if that is the goal of the powers that be.
However, as athletes we know better, we know that the moment we enter the arena all bets are off. It is the best part of sports, no matter who you are - the same rules apply - we are all equal inside the arena. Perform better and earn your victory! Your teammates, side by side with you, in the trenches of war, throughout the battle and united in victory. No matter where they come from, what language they speak, or the color of their skin - they are athletes just like you, committed to the same goals, path, and with a resounding love for the game.
If you look at the Strength or Fitness sports, you have three or four main categories: Olympic Weightlifting & Powerlifting, Bodybuilding, Strongman, and CrossFit.
Powerlifters are the big overweight athletes who train 3 lifts and will do anything to shorten their range of motion for the sake of competition. Yes, I recognize this is a stereotype in and of itself, so please understand this is a generalized view of the competitive structure only. They’re associated with heavy steroid use and negative attitudes about everything non-Powerlifting (techniques and form).
Olympic Weightlifters are the elitist. They believe everything they do is better, more perfect and more impressive than everyone else’s work. They are the samurai of the barbell and they’ll build a house out of their workout journals of barbell complexes and endless hours of “practice”. I often liken their sport to a form of art. The way they move the barbell is their own, like the brush strokes of a master painter creating his masterpiece.
Bodybuilders are in it for one reason - to look bigger and more shredded than everyone else. They come with a myriad of eating disorders and insecurities and they have a strange love for everything mechanical and inflamed. The more machines they can use in a workout the better. The more swollen the better. They will never be big enough and their bodies will never be good enough.
Strongman athletes are your “freak of nature” types, that would rather turn back the clock of time to the Viking era where they can lift their stones, throw their logs and drink out of the skulls of their enemies. They will literally break themselves to lift heavy objects and in their eyes - everyone else is small, weak, and useless. They are the superior forces of power and no one can challenge them.
CrossFitters find themselves in the center of a cult like universe. They believe the longer they workout, the more they suffer, the more indestructible they are. They care more about going fast than doing things right and feel the need to tell the world how much better they are while they brag about their endless injuries and failures.
Then there’s everyone else.
Runners who wither away but have an addiction for a chemical response that only occurs in human deer hybrids. They care more about distance and their gadgets than the actual body of work itself. To them, anything that can make their boring/monotonous sport feel more extreme or intense, will be highly sought after. It reminds me of the annual craze over the latest iPhone... (Blame running shoe industry.)
Yogis who wear the stench of their armpits as a badge, hold a disdain for anyone with muscles and love to do nothing more than sweat in awkward positions as they talk about their feelings.
The Strength world has many similarities to the world of Martial Arts. They both require years of training, mental toughness, and a level of discipline few ever reach or truly understand. Those who do reach it tend to become very successful, and known around the world. As an athlete yourself though, you will never reach your own full potential unless you open your mind and accept that there is something to be learned from every discipline. More importantly, that there are many ways to achieve greatness, the path someone else took to get there will most likely not be the same that will get you there.
Now let's give this discussion a reality check, this is how we should view each other as ambassadors of our sport.
Strongest foundational strength discipline. The Back Squat, Deadlift and Benchpress are movements that will provide the human body a strong framework like structure that can be maintained and built on for the duration of one's life. Learn how to properly perform these movements, then excel at them. Once you’ve accomplished that, let the gains begin!
Completely built around moving the most amount of weight in the most efficient manner possible. This is accomplished by generating power through levers and mastering control of the body at every point throughout a series of extremely complex barbell movements.. This is the Bushido of Barbell. There are two movements, Clean and Jerk and Snatch. But every champion Weightlifter has never lifted exactly the same. This sport is just as much about mastering your body and leveraging it’s advantages through training than it is lifting heavy weights. Learn how to generate power with Weightlifting and how to use your body type to its own advantage and it will transfer to every other physical activity you do.
No one has mastered the art of muscle fatigue, supplementation, volume and muscular anatomy as Bodybuilders have. They have pushed their bodies to the absolute limits of human ability, especially when it comes to generating muscle mass in the fastest way possible. They know how to control and mitigate the chemical responses the body has to deal with from such high amounts of tissue damage and scarring as a result of rebuilding. They learn how to build mass quickly in specifically targeted areas for desired aesthetic results. This skill should not to be taken lightly, but respected for what it truly is.
These are the strongest, most functional human beings on the planet - period. You need no experience in Strength or Fitness to witness a certifiable Giant lifting massive boulders over their own head. Once you see it, you know without a doubt, that these people are a different kind of STRONG. They consistently lift the heaviest amount of weight in training and process the highest amount of volume at the same time. They are the masters of handling odd objects, moving massive loads over great distances. They are the mad scientists, managing the central nervous system as it responds vigorously to their types of heavy training. In order for them to handle the stress of this training and the loads that come with it they oftentimes need to gain mass to sustain. They also have to be able to recover from this type of stimulus which would cripple most other athletes. You will be hard pressed to find any athlete who has more experience performing while suffering. If you can learn how to move massive weight with speed like these athletes, then maybe one day, you yourself will unlock the power only written about in comic books and ancient tales of the gods.
(Look we’ll talk about what it used to be because that’s what we know.) This “Sport” was literally created to make people more fit so they could enjoy their lives outside of the gym more. They have perfected the art of work capacity. Being able to move weight over a distance repeatedly for time. There is no other discipline that creates as well rounded an athlete as CrossFit. Why is that? Because they pulled key aspects of every other strength/training discipline and they learned the recovery techniques that compliment them (mobility, nutrition, supplementation). They even included Gymnastics. So what are they best at? Nothing. That is their strength - they are pretty good at everything without being the best at anything. OK - well maybe they are the best at box jumps and being vertically challenged (AKA short). All jokes aside - you can learn that your level of fitness has never reached its true potential, CrossFit will teach you how much you really do suck, at a myriad of things. It is your job to try and suck less. Fitness goals tend to be reached in the shortest amount of time under the CrossFit methodology, personally though, I feel this has more to do with the competitive nature of the individuals who find their passion training this way. Their greatest strength is having a level of efficiency in every aspect of fitness, not just a single modality. You’ll learn how to train in a more complete functional manner that will translate effectively to every sport or athletic endeavor you so choose to participate in.
Let’s also include Cyclist, Swimmers and all the other Endurance Sports here, basically anything monostructural. They are the world's greatest pioneers at regulating their heart rate and at training their bodies to be as efficient as possible. A true endurance athlete has the ability to spike their heart rate and lower it to bismal numbers in a very short period of time. They recover fast and are the kings & queens of continuous movement. Don’t understand what we’re talking about? Look at an Ultra Marathon.100 Miles of running. No this isn’t an NWA song - it’s doing the same thing for what seems like an eternity. There is only one way to accomplish this - efficiency. The human body is capable of amazing feats, these athletes exemplify that ability. They can turn down their heart rate, which allows for longer training days and even a more efficient use of their caloric intake. In other words, their bodies are finely tuned machines that can ramp up the MPG’s at will.
In the Strength world we all know at least one athlete who has left our planet and landed in the Yoga community. With that departure they left behind daily pain, a pattern of injuries and an overall disdain for aging. What we mean by this is Yogis are the best in the world at training flexibility, mobility and mastery of body weight with fluid movement. They also have a strong focus in myofascial release, which increases the elasticity of the body allowing for easier movement and a better all around existence. You see what we do in the Strength world is tighten and break everything down so it can regrow stronger and rebound to generate power. The downside of this is as we age we have put such stress and tension on the body that sooner or later things don’t feel that great or worse break. Yoga can undo much of this damage - through suffering again (seeing a pattern here?) and bring you back to moving as well as you did when you were a child. You know - when you could do just about anything and be OK. Learning how to move to extreme ranges will not only make you healthier and pain free but it will also help you recover from Strength training - making you stronger faster!
So there you have it. Just one perspective of some of the skills and lessons that can be learned from different disciplines of training and strength.
The message is clear - athletes are United and Committed to human performance.
Being in lockdown from COVID-19, hitting home workouts and missing the gym has taught us much about the way we view each other but one thing will always be true.
It’s not about what Strength discipline you are currently specializing in - it’s about what you can learn from all of the different disciplines and how you can use the pieces to reach your long term goals.
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