Weaknesses. We all have them; and facing them can be uncomfortable and humbling. But exploiting your weakness is a great way to encourage growth.
It’s a phrase I coined (at least I think I did) that describes a pretty regular occurrence that many athletes and trainers practice. It’s simply when one identifies a weakness in themselves and implements a training regimen to correct the weakness. Remember back to when you first started lifting, or running, or whatever it is you do. With any kind of effort, you made significant progress quickly as your body adapted to new stimuli. At least with lifting, this phenomenon is common. Your nervous system reacts strongly to the new exercises, you make some quick gains, and you come to the conclusion that you’re unstoppable! After the honeymoon phase ends and reality hits, progress slows and you might even “plateau”. But does it have to be this way?
I’ve put a little more thought into this idea and have implemented it into my training. For example, I regularly squat “low bar” where the bar sits lower on my back than in a “high bar” position. Like many people, I’m much weaker in my high bar squat than in my low bar squat…but I was like REALLY weak in my high bar. I was also having trouble staying upright during my squat ascent which can be a symptom of weak quads. Since the high bar squat places more emphasis on the quads, it made for a perfect accessory exercise. My low bar squat at the time was right around 500lbs but, due to weaknesses, poor flexibility, etc., I could barely rep 225lbs high bar. So that’s where I started. Within a few months, I was repping 315lbs high bar, my flexibility had improved, my quads were stronger, core was tighter, and my low bar squat was improving as well.
It’s a very simple concept. Almost like, “Duh.” The point to all this is that in the gym, sometime we hit a wall, or plateau, and we stop making progress. This technique can help when you experience this stagnation. By identifying and focusing in on a weakness, even though it may be humbling, we can force our bodies to adapt quickly and we may see a nice improvement. As described in my example, I was able to make significant improvements QUICKLY once I started working on an exercise that I normally didn’t do and that carried over to other aspects of my training. I was exploiting the body’s ability to adapt to new stimuli. I was exploiting my weakness.
“Exploiting your weakness” can be applied to many other hobbies and aspects of life. You may be a pianist who is struggling with the speed of a new song, or a soccer player falling behind on the team. If you just find an aspect of your skill that isn’t up to par and consistently drill it, you might make rapid, significant improvements.
You can even apply the idea to your personal life. Are you becoming a better person? Or have you become stagnant? What is something that you don’t often work on, that, with a little bit of work, you could improve? Maybe you aren’t present enough with your family; take an extra hour or two during the week to be together. Maybe you lose your temper too easily; practice self-control and use more kind words. These are simple improvements that don’t take much effort, but, if practiced consistently, the benefits can be priceless.
No one is perfect and everyone has weaknesses; but we have to face these weaknesses if we want to exploit them and use them to quickly make significant improvement. It’s just another way to put a positive spin on an otherwise negative aspect of life.
So find your weaknesses, face them, exploit them, and profit.
*All that being said, consistency and progressive overload still play vital roles in any good training program.*