80/20 of Lifting

About the Author: Eric Cressey

You often hear about the 80/20 rule applied to business; 20% of your efforts account for 80% of your income.

Or, it’s training; 20% of your exercise selection – squats, deadlifts, Olympic lifts, chin-ups, presses, rows, etc. – account for 80% of your progress in the gym.

After my trip to Ireland last week, I got to thinking about how this rule is applicable to coaching. You see, much of my week was spent with a great strength coach, Will Heffernan. Will’s prices are probably higher than anyone in Dublin (or all of Ireland, for that matter) – yet he’s still working with and writing programs for over 300 athletes.

Will is a really bright guy with a ton of experience:

-He’s worked with athletes who have competed at each of the last three Olympics in his capacity as a strength and conditioning coach and massage therapist. This total includes including two that are bound for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Dessie Farrell, one of the best Gaelic Footballs of all time, publicly thanks Will in his book, Dessie: Tangled Up in Blue. Farrell was told he’d never play again due to knee injuries – yet after working with Will – he’s back out there.

-He’s working with some of the best rugby players in Ireland – and seeing hundreds of other athletes simultaneously either as individuals or in team settings.

Now, as you can imagine, Will and I had some good chats about science-this and science-that. He was an awesome contributor in the audience at my seminar, too. As I discovered later, though, we were talking about the 80% of knowledge we probably don’t get to use with any of our athletes very often.

You see, the other 20% of our training knowledge is all we really use with athletes because:

a) most athletes aren’t as advanced as you think

b) they aren’t as motivated as you think.

Most critically, this knowledge includes the ability to speak to athletes on their level in their language.

I’ve seen some pretty well-read coaches who scare athletes off – or don’t get anything out of them – because they expect too much early-on. It’s why guys who expect high school kids to train 6x/week to start wind up tanking pretty quickly (and winding up with athletes who hate them and their sports). It’s also why many professional sports strength coaches struggle to get off the ground with a new team; they expect to overhaul things completely right off the bat. The better move is to play the “one of mine, one of yours” game for a while to work your way in.

I’m more laid back and work my way in with athletes – and pretty soon, 2x/week becomes 5x/week.Goofballs become all-stars and all-scholastics and get Division 1 scholarships. Those skeptical of our programming in general start appreciating how much of a difference it can make. And, I get 80 high school athletes sending me 800 text messages a month because I wind up being a big brother as much as a coach!

Clearly, Will is in the same boat. I lifted alongside Will at one of his rugby clubs, and it was very clear that all his athletes completely buy in to what he’s doing. There were no egos; guys just came in and busting their butts with simple, yet effective programming. It was the 20% executed to perfection.

Getting through to an athlete gives you the ability to take that 20% figure and move it to 25%, 30%, and higher. If you scare them off by expecting too much to start, you’ll won’t get anywhere.

Cressey Performance’s #1 Client

Normally, I don’t like to play favorites. Then again, not every one of my clients bakes us ridiculously tasty (and healthy) stuff for every session.

Nancy doesn’t deadlift 500, push a bobsled, or throw a 90-mph two-seam fastball. Heck, her change-up isn’t even good. She does, however, wield a copy of John Berardi’s Gourmet Nutrition cookbook with the best of them, though.

This past weekend, it was a combination of the banana nut squares with peanut butter crunch bars on top.We contemplated shutting the facility down completely for ten minutes while we savored their taste. It was a

You might not have a Nancy of your own, but you can definitely have the next best thing: a copy of JB’s new cookbook, complete with 120 new recipes with full nutritional information on each of them. Check it out for yourself:

Gourmet Nutrition Version 2.0

Blog Updates

Training in Extreme Positions

Who Needs Percentages?

I’m off to Pittsburgh this weekend to do a seminar (more info on the schedule page). Also, Brijesh Patel and I just confirmed that we’ll be speaking at a seminar on April 12 in New Hampshire. Drop me an email at ec@ericcressey.com if you’re interested and I’ll pass along the information.

All the Best,