Tip: Focus On the Big Stuff

You might be standing in the way of your own progress and not even know it. Here's how to zoom out and evaluate your training.

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Sweat the Big Stuff

When I first got into lifting weights, I did too many small, fine-tuning exercises. See, before strength and conditioning coaches were given a voice in popular media, we had to rely on the info in bodybuilding magazines. That meant most of us copied the pros. That's not always a bad thing. In-the-trenches experience of successful people is valuable. But it also made us myopic.

For example, as a googly-eyed teen, I picked up a book by bodybuilder Bob Paris. In it, he said to do tibia raises. That's like a reverse calf raise where your heels stay put and you lift your toes up. I was convinced that if I left out this tiny muscle group, my physique would be "unbalanced."

The problem? I was doing these silly tibia raises instead of doing deadlifts or pull-ups. That's like polishing the wheels of your car but neglecting to gas it up and change the oil.

Easy Doesn't Do Much

Today we're seeing almost the same thing. Too many people are spending too much time focusing on the small stuff.

Excessive corrective exercises, excessive mobility drills, working on "balance" for some reason... when their goal is simply to lose fat and build some muscle.

That stuff is fine, but don't forget to throw around heavy weights and do things that actually make you strain, suck wind, and sweat.

And that's the core issue here: the small stuff is EASY, so people gravitate toward it. But easy doesn't force the body to adapt and change. Easy doesn't make you strong, and it doesn't make you look good naked. (Although my wife does say that I have the sexiest extensor digitorum longuses she's ever seen.)

Ask Yourself This

  • Are you spending a lot of time fine-tuning your "inner" chest when you can't even do a proper dip yet? Are you playing around with the unilateral cable pulldown without first trying to knock out some real pull-ups?
  • Has your focus shifted so much toward doing fancy, advanced-yet-myopic mobility drills and prehab exercises that you're forgetting to lift some heavy stuff too? And is the real reason you're doing this because it's easy compared to a teeth-shattering set of squats?

It's not easy to be self-critical like this, but it's necessary to make real progress.

Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram