It is natural to enjoy that which we excel at doing. I love doing things that I am good at. I am good at ping pong, pullups and eating icecream. There is a reason for this. I do all three things often. I do them often because I am good at them. I am good at them because I do them often. And so on and so forth.
One of the things that I notice most when I see other people working out, or when I look at my own workouts is that we all tend to gravitate towards exercises that we enjoy doing and exercises that we are good at. These usually involve more upper body work because who enjoys doing lunges? No one. And if you say that you do you are a liar.
Upper body of a 13 year old boy. Lower body of a horse.
The problem with always working on your strengths is that the exercises you are weaker at or the parts of your body that are not as strong will not become…well…stronger. You become imbalanced and unable to excel at whatever activity it is that you are training for. Even if you are not training for a sport being imbalanced will eventually lead to injuries which will be stressful physically and mentally. But at the same time you will have huge arms and girls don’t really care how big your calves are anyways…right?
I am reading Zach Even-Esh’s new book ‘The Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning” and in it he talks about attacking your weaknesses. If there is a muscle in your body that is weak it needs to be attacked until it is strong. He recommends adding extra weak point training to your warmups and to add in quick workouts outside of the gym. For example if your lower body strength is your weak point Zach recommends adding in 3 sets of 10 Back Squats with a challenging weight at the beginning of every single workout that you do. This will ensure that your weak point is being addressed each and every workout. Doing it at the beginning of the workout also guarantees that you won’t be able to talk yourself out of it at the end of your workout.
The better you get at doing things that once were your weak points will make them more enjoyable to do. I have practiced eating ice cream to the point where I can demolish a tub of Moose Tracks in one sitting without feeling a shred of remorse. I may have become lactose intolerant as a result, but diarrhea isn’t that bad anyway.
The earliest photo I could find of myself eating icecream.
If you are serious about making yourself a holistically stronger person than attacking your weaknesses is something that you should be doing in the gym and in your life as well. Find something that you are bad at and improve it through concentrated practice. Do you have trouble reading an entire book? Read 10 pages a day and after three weeks you’ll have read a book. If you have trouble talking to new people simply force yourself to do it more often. If you have trouble deciding between restaurants just mentally flip a coin and choose. It’s better than not choosing, and plus girls think it’s attractive if you can choose a restaurant for some reason. I’m not complaining.
Bruce Lee once said, right before playing ping pong with nun chucks, that “There are no limits. There are only Plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them”. The key to going beyond your plateaus is to turn your weaknesses into strengths. Find your weaknesses and attack them.