Training baseball players and other athletes can teach you a lot, and can often let those thought linger. The quote "The Little Things Are The Big things" was inspired after a training session with two Freshman Auburn baseball players. One was a catcher, and one a shortstop; both athletes are studs. This past summer I worked with the shortstop, Keaton Weisz, who runs a 6.4 60yd and throws 90 mph across the diamond. The other was a special guest, 6’2’’, 220 lbs, born in raised in Georgia. This was the freshman catcher, Jonathan, a potential freak of an athlete. Leading up to the workout, Keaton told me how strong Jonathan was, how big his legs were, how he can squat close to 400 lbs, and that he could hang clean 300 lbs.
We train a little differently at 1RM and new athletes know it immediately. Jon being a meathead and already decently strong, almost skipped the workout because he thought he didn’t have anything to work on. However, his one hour workout with me and Keaton transformed his mentality about training and also how he approaches a heavy squat. Being a catcher, he has developed faulty squat mechanics. With catchers, that’s what we expect because of the nature of the beast: continual valgus collapse, and so on. Catchers are always the biggest headache for a strength coach that actually coaches. For Jon, each rep above 275 resulted into a collapsing right medial arch in his foot, and his entire torso opening up to the left side. After being the first person to point it out to him, I gave him three simple cues to fix the issue.
1.) apply more weight to the outside of your right heal
2.) create more IAP and
3.) drive both feet harder into the ground.
The result, drastically improved reps, leading to two clean reps at 395 and the third being a little messier thanks to neural fatigue! This young man earned himself a T-shirt and is welcome in my gym whenever he is in town.
The greatest things that I received from that day is a quote that has been resonating with me. Jon told Keaton that I was the first person to teach him the little things. The first person to actually explain the little things, and it had a huge impact. Light bulbs have been exploding, and after talking with Blake and Melissa it all came together. One of the biggest things you get when training at 1RM Performance are the little things. The little details that you don’t get many other places. The little details that are annoying to hear all the time. The little details that when mastered, allow for massive changes. The Little Things Are The Big Things.
Each of my college athletes needed to be refreshed on the little details of the lift so they stay away from injuries in the gym as they head back to school. You’d like to think kids never forget, but they do, just as we occasionally forget details along the way. But it is never too late to make the corrections as they come up.
Sadly, not everyone sees training through this lens. To some, training is simply putting someone through a workout. Give them exercises that should make them faster and stronger, collect money and have them come back. That is like throwing ingredients in a pan, throwing it into an oven, and expecting a wedding cake to come out. Sadly this doesn’t work! This is so far from my views, and how i believe training should be viewed. To me, each time a kid walks into the door is an opportunity to make a change, to make an improvement, and to impact the life of an athlete. This holds true across the board; 7th grader or profession baseball player.
I embrace the fact that every single athlete that walks through the door is different from the next. It would be impossible, and I would be doing a disservice to each athlete if I was to treat them all the same and provide the same cues and feedback to them. It is the driving force behind why I stray from group training. Group training can work, and I’m starting to get better at it, but it’s a lot for my brain to handle! Correcting the squat mechanics of 4 athletes at once is not an easy task if you want to do it well.
Athletes experience little changes the day they walk in for their assessment. I begin explaining details to athletes that I know they’ve never heard before. I point out poor movement patterns, explain in detail why certain movement patterns are occurring, explain how we will fix them fast, and explain how it will allow them to grow as an athlete fastest. I open up their mind into the benefits of ideal movement, and lay the groundwork for all the little changes to occur as training continues.
When athletes begin training, they learn more and more details. Day one of squatting we’ll work positioning and loading patterns of the foot. When that positioning is mastered, from the toes to the head we’ll start working more advanced cueing with their eyes, and add more details in the training programs. Day one for the bench is about the initial set up, feet, scaps, head. Day two or three it is about bending the bar and its snapping matches under the scaps. Then we get to more advanced programming and cuing. For DNS movements, its breathing, breathing with IAP, and developmental movements and positons from there.
The little changes that take place aren’t only movement based; there are mental changes that often need to take place. A kid’s speed during a squat, bench, deadlift, etc. is often affected by the mental approach to the lift. Take a slow lifter, and tell them to have the intent of throwing the bar through the roof, and you’ll see numbers improve that day. Tell a kid to come up so fast in a squat that he wants the bar to fly off his back, or you want to hear the clack of the plates, and I promise you will see an instant improvement in someone squat max.
For all of the athletes, enough of the little things, make a monster. Literally a monster. If you leave out little details along the journey, the overall growth of the athlete is limited, and they will never be able to create an athlete that exceeds what the athlete him or herself could have ever imagined. We as strength coaches, especially strength coaches of younger athlete, play a pivotal role for the future of all of these athletes. At the collegiate level, there is minimal coaching of lifts, due to the number of athletes that coaches have to work with at once. It is on us to make sure our athletes are prepared and understand the details of movements as they grow.