“Good at some things, but great at nothing”. Back in college I had a mentor who used this phrase to describe undergraduate students who were classified as “generalists” in my major (which I was… and he reminded me, on occasion). What that meant was, instead of picking a specific area of technology to specialize in, we focused on doing a little bit in every area. Programming, multimedia, construction, etc… we did it all. The problem with this, as he saw it, was even though we could do everything pretty well, we never spent enough time in one area enough to fully maximize our potential. In essence, we we’re just average at everything… and who wants to think of themselves as “just average”? The same can be implied to strength and conditioning, and one’s goals.
Okay, I get it. You want to be generally stronger, faster, leaner, healthier, etc… And you mean “general” in every sense of the word. You don’t exactly know what it all looks like, but you know you want it all… preferably now. Like, right now… or at least for it all to start happening all at the same time. So what do you do? You start working on it all. You lift some weights, and watch your food. Then you run, and bike, and swim, and hike. Then you lift some more weights… light weights, and heavy weights. Sometimes you lift them fast, and sometimes you lift them slow. You PLAY around with it all… and I do mean “play”. It’s musical chairs, only with weight lifting, and exercise programs. Now the music’s stopped, and your butt is no longer sitting on a chair.
What’s the result of this hodgepodge of programs and strategies? A hodgepodge of results. Maybe you’re faster and leaner, but weaker overall. Maybe stronger, but get winded walking up a flight of stairs. What are you really expecting though?
I’m not sure exactly when the term SPECIFICITY became a “four letter word” in strength and conditioning (probably around the same time as “Periodization”). However, now, the idea of spending a focused amount of time in one area or discipline is quite taboo. Phrases like “being prepared for the unknown and the unknowable” are thrown around adnoseum, and the idea of having to do everything, all the time, is perpetuated as the best way to get a good level of GPP (General Physical Preparedness).
Ok, so you’ve got a day job, and just want more energy in order to play with your kids, not get winded running up stairs, or hurt yourself moving furniture… and look good naked (can’t forget about looking better naked). Fine, but specific goals require specific, mindful, actions. You can’t hope to gain considerable strength while cutting calories and fatiguing yourself by running, or biking for hours before you’re suppose to be lifting heavy weights. Nor can you “lean out” simply eating whatever you want (“Paleo” or not). It just doesn’t work that way.
There is often a logical progression to things. Sometimes you may need to spend a focused amount of time working on a specific area, or weakness, in order to improve towards an “overall” end goal. For example, you need the strength to lift the bar off the ground before you can even think about Snatching it overhead. Focus on the area that will benefit you the most in achieving your goals, first. Then progress to another area later, if need be.
Remember, working towards a goal actually means you’re progressing toward achieving that goal.