Train the Fundamentals


liftIn my college days as a competitive powerlifter, we had this saying: “If you want to lift heavy weight, you’ve got to lift heavy weight.”

Sure, it sounds dumb. It sounds obvious. It sounds like circular logic. However ridiculous it may sound, the principle is rock-solid, and if it didn’t need saying, I never would have said it.

I used to have guys come up to me with every exercise in the book besides the one they needed to improve. “Will, I’ve tried everything to get my squat numbers up, and I can’t break through this plateau! Leg presses, calf extensions! Bands! Chains! Hip adductors! Plyo boxes! Reverse hyperextensions! High speed dynamic work!”

My reply: “I know just the thing. There’s this new-school exercise they call the Squat. It works best with heavy weight.”

Fitness guys, don’t get me wrong– we all know that plateaus are a very real thing, and the exercises above can be great assistance work, or fixes for tough sticking points… but if you’re spending all your time fooling around with weird new ideas or ancillary skills while avoiding the skill you actually need to improve… well, you’re wasting your time. You are probably subconsciously avoiding it because just doing it is hard work and is not that exciting.

Several years later, in an environment no less metallic and brutal than the powerlifting gym, the principle is still rock-solid. It seems like every day I see guys studying ancillary skills at the expense of the fundamentals. I get it– advanced torpedo employment and evasion tactics are far more interesting than Rules of the Road and contact management. Which skill set do you think the TRE board is going to be expecting from a JO at your paygrade? Which do you think you’re going to use next time you take the watch? Learn to crawl before you learn to dance.

You never graduate from the fundamentals

I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with studying advanced topics. You should, as long as you keep in mind that you never graduate from the fundamentals. Be brilliant at the Basics. These skills are highly perishable, difficult to master, and require constant maintenance just to stay competent.


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