Have you ever caught yourself envious of another athlete that appears to be using little or no effort for a task that is impossible for you?
“Why can’t I do that?”
“Look they aren’t even trying!”
“What if they actually tried harder?”
I know I’ve had these thoughts from time to time and I’m sure you’ve had the same reaction as someone sped passed you in a workout.
Did you ever think though that instead of trying to kill yourself to catch up to them that you should practice what they’re doing – to move effortlessly?
Effortlessness should be an end-goal for your training and your performance. But wait – shouldn’t you always be going at 100% and trying your hardest to win and get better? To achieve those challenging goals that you set?
Your goal as an athlete is to have your technique be able to mask your level effort.
Of course you need to be internally trying as hard as you can. But if you have great technique it will appear on the outside as effortless. Through this effortlessness is when your body can fully express and take advantage of power and technique simultaneously. This takes many hours of deliberate practice on your technique and being able to integrate your strength and power gains into your movement. The payoff is well worth the effort though (pun intended).
Get to this level of technique and you’re at an elite level in your sport. Most athletes are in the opposite position and that’s why they’re pretty average. The amount of energy they’re expending is clear to everyone.
During the NFL lockout a number of Carolina Panthers would come into one of the gyms where I train clients. They were mostly linemen, and big ones. They’d rack up 3-plates on each side (that’s 315-lbs) for their bench press and pump out 10 reps and that was just to get started. I can’t even imagine pushing that much weight around. Yes that wasn’t their max but their ability to make it look easy helps them push a much higher load of weight when they’re ready to max out.
Another example of this is from the last time I was at the pool, training for my PR Journey. There were only 2 guys and myself at the time so I was able to catch a glimpse of their strokes as I rested. They looked a lot like those Panther players, strong and very well built. When they’d push off to swim you could instantly see huge waves and splashes come off their bodies.
“Wow – look at that effort, they must be going really fast!”
That’s what you’d probably think if you just had a close-up video of them with no point of reference for their actual speed. If you just saw their movement you’d believe they were on pace to break a world record. It looked intense and hard, like they were really trying!
But that wasn’t the case, at least the speed part. In fact after they were about halfway down the pool I pushed off on a fast effort. Now I’m not on Phelps’ level of talent but I was able to quickly catch and pass the other guys. I’m guessing if you had watched me in that same video, with no point of reference, you would have thought, “yeah he’s moving ok, but it looks too easy, he’s probably not trying very hard or going very fast.”
There in lies the paradox. Athletes that perform a task or movement well always make it look incredibly easy to everyone else.
So if you want to raise your level of performance work on your technique! Continue to hone your skills until it’s as smooth as Jordan’s jump shot was. Don’t just focus on strength and power. Make it look like you’re going easy and have everyone else is try to catch up.