Habits of Elite Level Athletes
By: Lisa Guggisberg, Team PRS
Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. As a creature of habit I understand and respect this. As an athlete there is great merit to this statement. It takes dedication, talent, knowledge and a positive attitude to become an elite level athlete. At the same time it takes daily decisions or habits to become successful. While not everyone will want to become an elite level lifter there are some habits of top level athletes that can help you improve your performance.
Here are some habits of successful lifters:
Focus on Form:
This is a 10/20/Life principal and probably the number one principal I follow during each and every training session, even under light weight. Proper form ensures longevity, safety and helps prevent injuries. A lifter who corrects and practices form, doing it correctly, for each and every lift, can add an immediate 10% to their max simply by using better leverages and start positions. This all transfers over to when you do need to move heavy weight, all that practice you spent working on form will be there when you really need it.
Nothing upsets me more than when I see an athlete doing movements and not sure why they are doing them. Everything you do must have a purpose. Following a program that plugs in unnecessary work could potentially harm the lifter’s performance. A perfect example of this is assistance work after your main lifts. Do you know why you are doing deficit pulls? Is it because you saw your training partner or a social media guru doing them? Don’t do mindless work; know why you are doing a movement and why that movement benefits your performance. Choose a program and accessory work that speaks to your weak points. What works for lifter A won’t always work for lifter B.
Discipline & Consistency:
When I get ready for a meet a lot of things take a back seat. My life becomes unbalanced during meet prep. Sometimes that means family life suffers, social life becomes zero, eating out doesn’t happen a lot, and any outside distractions stop. This requires a higher level of discipline and commitment to your goals. Consistency means that even on bad days you are still contributing to your goals. I don’t always feel like training and not every training session is going to be great. But, sticking to the plan, staying dedicated to the end goal will get me one step closer. A bad day still contributes to development.
So along with positive habits there are a few things that elite level lifters never do:
Sacrifice Form for Weight:
Have you ever loaded the bar and thought “I can do more weight, but I’ll have to work and grind through it”. Yes, as a lifter we need to learn how to grind for those big PR’s, our maxes won’t be as pretty as 70%, but grinding through weight and using poor form is not optimal during training. If you are always sacrificing form for weight you will never give yourself the opportunity to learn muscle memory so that when the time comes you can move heavy weight with good form. If in doubt, take an ego check and back off the weight. During training and meet prep there should never be any doubt if you can move weight with perfect form, if there is then it’s too heavy.
You can’t follow a program for two months and expect to reach all your goals. Strength takes time and consistency. Once you have a program and identified your goals stick to it! Follow the plan to the best of your ability and re-evaluate after you have given it time. Trust the program and make small adjustments along the way if needed (this also goes back to communicating with your coach and being coachable). At the end of the program if you didn’t end up with the results you wanted you have at least learned what did and did not work for you. Changing programs constantly you will never learn what works for you. Having a new program every few months will lead you right back where you began.
Rely on Motivation Alone:
Name one person that has changed their life based on motivation alone? A motivational quote won’t get you through meet prep or when it comes down to making it happen on the platform. There are a lot more elements than just motivation to make success happen. I’ve watched Brian Carroll hit big PR’s when it counts like a professional and it’s not because of motivation alone. He relied on all the training, discipline, proper programming, experience and consistent work put in. Elite athletes succeed because they use everything they have to their advantage.
These are habits that I have lived by and that have changed my path as an athlete. Everyone wants to be successful with their goals. But the decisions we do in our daily life, what we repeatedly do, is what determines success.