Sunday, January 28, 2018

Look Like Tarzan. Play like Jane.

Today's post reviews common mistakes that athletes make when training and other sports topics. It is a summation of advice given by Dan John, a coach and holder of several records in the discus. He gave this advice on the excellent Art Of Manliness Podcast #354, Brains & Brawn:

The Common Mistakes

Here are common mistakes athletes make when training per Dan John:

Problem #1: Looks like Tarzan plays like Jane.

Stack Exchange - Origin of the phrase “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane”?

Scouts, coaches, and fans use the phrase “Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane” to describe a player that appears physically imposing, but plays at a level not consistent with their apparent physical gifts.

Many athletes today are focused on hypertrophied weight training, focused on building large muscles. These athletes are part of the post Arnold Schwarzenegger generation that thinks athletes to look the part require out sized muscles. They are lifting to gain muscle mass without lifting appropriately to the particular requirements of the athletic task at hand.

Problem #2:  Over Conditioning


One of the poorest trends in strength and conditioning for team sports is an over-emphasis on cardiovascular conditioning.  Speaking from experience, this mindset is most prevalent in ice-hockey and swimming, where “dry land training” is synonymous with “let’s kick the crap out of our athletes”. However, this is also beginning to make its way into other major sports like basketball and football, where speed and power should be the main emphasis once an adequate cardiovascular base has been developed.

In terms of conditioning, coaches have lost the sense to know when enough is enough. Much of the supposed conditioning is, in fact, garbage conditioning. situational preparation beats over conditioning when it oess to sports.

Problem #3:  Early Specialization

NBCI - Sports Specialization in Young Athletes, Evidence-Based Recommendations

For most sports, there is no evidence that intense training and specialization before puberty are necessary to achieve elite status. Risks of early sports specialization include higher rates of injury, increased psychological stress, and quitting sports at a young age. 

Sport specialization leads to burn out and increased likelihood of injury. Despite evidence that specialization at an early age is counter productive, it is becoming increasingly common that children are pushed to excel in specialized athletics at an early age. Kids just want to play and parents need to learn when enough is enough.

Nature VS Nurture

Two books in recent years have opened up the debate on nature versus nurture when it comes to talent in activities such as sports. Dan Johns cautions athletes that progress comes in increments. One can only do little in a day, that adds up to a lot in a year, progress comes bit by bit. Humans are impatient for visible progress and often give up when this does not occur. 

The Six Foundational Strength Patterns

When it comes to strength training, we often focus only on a few aspects to the neglect of the others. There are six basic foundational patterns:

T Nation - 6 Foundational Movement Patterns

As a human, your body moves in pretty much the same way as other humans. In fact, there are six basic movement patterns. Naturally, if you want to be a strong, athletic, healthy human, you train all of these foundational patterns. 

But there's a problem. Not all the exercises that mimic these patterns are right for every body, at least not right away. For example, if you start with the wrong squat variation for your body type, skill level, injury history or goal, you'll wind up with a banged-up body.



Hinge - Hinge exercises involve the bend in you hips that brings your back/belly closer to your thighs. Hinge exercises which focus on the posterior muscles like the hamstrings and glutes are often neglected in favor of lifting that focuses on the thighs. The bend is focused more at the hips than at the knees.

Breaking Muscle - The Physics Of Lifting: Don’t Forget To Hinge

The Single Leg Romanian Dead Lift is an excellent way to get started with hinge exercises:

Squat - xx

Load and Carry - Loads and carries amps up ones work capacity and does what Dan Johns calls building the stone.

Anaconda Strength

Besides the foundational strength movements, there are other important c
Hammer (Hit or Strike) - Your striking force.
Stone - Your ability to take a strike without wobbling.
Anaconda - You ability to generate internal pressure.
Armor - Your exterior callousing required for collision sports.
Bow - Same as hammer described above.
Arrow - Some as stone described above.

T Nation - How to Build Anaconda Strength

"We humans are like bicycle inner tubes. Our performance depends on our inner pressure. Sadly, most of us ride around on underinflated tires. True, the world looks at our treads first, but what really counts is the pressure."


Back Fit Pro - Okinawan strength: Developing the “Iron Body”

Recovery, the Forgotten Art

In the interview, Dan Johns mentions recovery as one of the areas that most athletes need to pay more attention to.

Lack of sleep is probably the biggest problem. He mentions developing good sleep hygiene and associated sleep rituals.  He specifically recommends:

  • Blue blockers on electronic devices.
  • Heat like a hot tub followed by an ice shower
  • Darkened rooms
  • Using book relax and win
He also mention hydration as being a huge issue. Not all drinks are created equal and modern society often make poor choices like cokes, coffees and energy drinks. He recommends simply drinking more water

He is also a fan of the migun bed.

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