What does it take to maintain ferocity in sports performance? In other words, how can one become a fucking savage? Many clients of mine message me talking about their favorite Tik Tok and Instagram influencers and wonder what it takes to get from Point A to Point B. According to Dr. Vladimir Issurin, Ph.D., author, and Dr. Michael Yessis, editor of Principles and Basics of Advanced Athletic Training, the essential components of athletic preparation include physical preparation, technical preparation, tactical preparation, psychological (mental) preparation, and intellectual preparation (4). I’d like to break these parts down for clarification.
Physical preparation is of course the big kahuna of athletic preparation. It’s where the real work happens. If you tune into the Olympics or have participated in sports in your community, you know there are many sports to choose from, specifically 8,000 indigenous sports and sporting games according to Wikipedia. Of course, climate, culture and other factors play a role in what sports a person can choose from. For example, it’s pretty difficult to snow ski here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; but we do love our futbol americano, specifically the New Orleans Saints and LSU Tigers. Ranging from hand ball to football to self-defense, there are many sports to choose from. Regardless of what sport you pick, if you aren’t prepared, you won’t succeed; you’ll simply play. Anyone can attempt a sport; but what does it take to understand, play well, and win?
Training, competing and recovery form the “trinity of components” for athletic readiness. The body must be conditioned to perform. In my opinion, weight training is essential for athletes. I remember running track in high school and struggling with my recovery because of intense aches and pains. Yes, I was running, which does build muscle primarily in the lower body muscles like your glutes, quads, and hamstrings; but I needed more conditional training to build muscle to support ligaments (bone to bone) and tendons (muscle to bone). Conditional training consists of strength, endurance, speed, flexibility, and agility.
Recovery is also an important aspect of physical training. We can’t just go, go, go all of the time. Rest is important. Dr. Issurin and Yessis suggest “planned restorative workouts and exercises as well as means such as massage, physiotherapy, aquatic procedures, medical treatment, correct nutrition, mental relaxation and the use of natural climatic factors” for the recovery process. Another important factor that absolutely cannot be forgotten is proper rest. According to Gwendolyn Sisto and Ivan Rojas, authors of Fundamentals of the Soviet System: The Soviet Weightlifting System and Modern Applications to the Sport of Weightlifting, “Sleep is a fundamental time in which recovery of muscle tissue occurs. It’s advised to sleep 7-8 hours a day and 30 minutes after lunch (Herrera, 2012).” Of course, for those who work during the day, a mid-day nap may not be practical; but all in all, it's important for everyone to shoot for as much sleep as possible without depletion or excess. As stated in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, strive for the mean. This applies to nutrition, too. Feed your muscles. Feed you brain. Your mind and body cannot keep up without being fed. (I’ll discuss the topic of nutrition further in my next blog entry. I have so much to say on this topic)
Technical and tactical skills both refer to proprioception, or mind-body awareness, and particularly refer to the refinement of training and skill. In the article Tactical vs. Technical Skills: Definition and Differences by The Indeed Editorial Team, the two concepts are clearly defined:
Technical skills allow athletes to play the game or perform the motions for their sport. The goal of technical skills is to execute a movement to the best of the athlete’s ability. For example, a running back in football might hone their running skills, which can help them move quickly and make fast turns. The goal of tactical skills development is to make the athlete more successful in a game or competition. Often, tactical skills involve using technical skills effectively. For example, the running back might develop energy management skills, which can help them strategically conserve energy so they can be fast during key moments of the game.
The mind and body need to learn how to connect with one another to perform complex movements. Practice makes perfect. Technique is developed over time and increases in difficulty depending on the circumstance. For example, dribbling a basketball solo during leisure time is much easier than dribbling during a game while in motion to dart away from your opponent and navigate across the court. Dr. Issurin and Yessis write, “Technical preparation includes physical exercises together with demonstration, explanation, analysis, verbal and visual corrections etc. intended to teach and improve certain technical skills” (3). There are many ways for athletes to obtain this information, including advice from coaches in-person or online, literature, and execution. This applies to tactical preparation too. Tactical skills preparation includes “strategies mental abilities that successful athletes use to win games and competitions… they might involve problem-solving skills and often rely on the athlete’s knowledge of their coach’s goals… for example, observation is a key tactical skill in football, soccer and hockey, where knowing the opponents’ location might be vital for a team’s success.” In other words, in order to be a good team player, an athlete must maintain the highest state of readiness. Dr. Issurin and Yessis concur, “Tactical preparation relates to (specifically organized physical exercises, trials, mental drills, modeling etc.) to instill cognitive tactics… Strictly speaking, strategy refers to long term planning and regulation of the larger physical, technical, tactical and material resources” (3). Tactical skills include observation, strategic thinking, distance estimation, energy management, communication, and flexibility. For example, referring back to the game of basketball, there is a lot going on. The player uses coordination to pass and dribble the ball, speed and endurance to maintain ferocity for the duration of the game, observation to react to the opposing team’s decisions, estimation of distance to pass and throw the ball, and flexibility and agility to pivot and react quickly on defense and offense. These concepts apply to all sports.
In order for an athlete to perform well, his or her mental state has to be sharp. Life throws everything at us from a hard break up to death to disappointment to failure, the list goes on. An athlete has to be able to balance life’s struggles with functioning on a day-to-day basis. This can include extroversion, conscientiousness, and emotionality. In other words, a person has to be able to compartmentalize and follow through with goals, professional tasks and self-care. Dr. Issurin and Yessis say, “Psychological preparation contains various measures intended to work in two major directions: 1) formation of the athlete’s personality so that it is harmonious, highly motivated and morally stable and 2) acquisition and perfection of the cognitive skills to provide the athletes with effective tools for self-regulation of their emotional and psycho-physiological state” (4). Most incredible athletes face adversity in life. Luckily, sports are an excellent and healthy outlet for a person to release emotions like anger or sadness. Natural endorphins are released during exercise, which reduces your perception of pain. This positive feeling can provide relief for someone who is suffering mentally or physically. Sports are also a creative outlet and a form of self-expression. According to Diversus Health, “creativity allows us to create beautiful work, problem-solve, and refresh our bodies and minds. Having fun positively impacts our mental health… Being creative can increase positive emotions, reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety, and improve the function of our immune systems.” Physical activity is a universal, natural outlet to reduce stress. Athletes are encouraged to take care of themselves outside of sports, too, such as developing healthy relationships with others, talking through life’s challenges, and self-care, which can include journaling, personal hygiene, going for a walk in nature, having a meal with friends, etc.
Intellectual preparation pertains to improving an athlete’s general knowledge about a sport. Basically, know what you’re doing. Dr. Issurin and Yessir discuss the components of intellectual preparation:
Intellectual preparation covers everything that pertains to comprehension of the sport itself and valuable details related to training, competition, judgment, equipment, sports media, etc… This includes:
-the basics of the selected sport: disciplines, technical and tactical backgrounds, training
aims and conditions, standards of behavior – partnerships and ethical norms
-the basics of competition: rules, program, equipment, athletes’ rights and obligations, standards of “fair play”
- the basics of training and methodology: training objectives, means and methods, information about loads and recovery, knowledge of the human body and self-control (4-5).
Knowledge is cultivated over time. (Most) students know that information cannot be crammed into the brain over-night. As an LSU graduate, I certainly tried to prove this theory wrong; but I learned this the hard way freshman year. Athletes are intellectual students as much as they are physical students. Through conversations, literature, coaching, and application of the sport, athletes can cultivate more knowledge. The more knowledge that an athlete collects about his or her sport, the better he or she can be.
We are all life-long learners. We all have room to improve. Tracking progress over time and maintaining consistency in life allows a person to be able to measure improvement. In sports, a particular skill can be measured. For example, in powerlifting, maybe the weight you deadlifted in 2016 is significantly less than in 2019. How did that happen? What did it take to accomplish that goal? And what if in 2021 you deadlift less than 2019? Will you maintain your ferocity to keep going? Will you be able to cope psychologically with a loss? Do you have a back-up and/or recovery plan for yourself in place? Understanding the mind and body entails understanding balance: when to push forward, when to fall back, and how to maintain ferocity no matter what life throws your way. Be a fucking savage.
If you are within driving distance of Baton Rouge and need a place to train for your next strongman competition, powerlifting meet or weightlifting meet, check out the Atlas Strength Shop for all of your training needs. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for your next visit. You can also check out our apparel line and programming options on our website. Be sure to like our Facebook page, here, and follow us on Instagram, here. Do you need a high quality energy supplement that won’t leave you with that crashing feeling? Check out veteran owned strikeforceenergy.com and use promo code ATLASSTRENGTH at checkout to get 20% off of your order. If you’re like me, and you like to bite down while lifting, you need to protect your teeth. Check out Impact Mouthguards and their custom molded mouth guards. Use promo code ATLASSTRENGTH at checkout to get 10% off of your order.
“The FEROCITY we show our foes must be tempered by the lesson we hope to teach.” -Frank Hebert