Psychology Trumps Physiology Every Time

This is another re-post from 2009

My friend Alwyn Cosgrove has a way with words. He has the ability to succinctly sum things up. Last year I was describing some training results that did not seem physiologically correct. I had been doing circuit training with my athletes, primarily for teambuilding purposes. However the circuits we were doing were causing excellent strength gains. I was dumb founded. I was doing things that should not produce strength gains yet they were gaining strength.

Alwyn summed it up simply by saying “Psychology trumps physiology every time”. As usual, I grabbed my notebook and wrote Alwyn’s thought down. Sometimes as a coach we can’t see the forest because of the trees. I was trying to design the perfect program with the perfect balance of sets, and reps. What I wasn’t getting was the effect of peer pressure. Athletes pushing each other through a circuit was causing an increase in effort.

I think it is easy to get caught up in concepts. How CNS intensive is the training, how much rest between sets etc. etc.? However, what we often miss is the human element. When I think of many of the coaches I know who are having great success with strength increases one thing they all have in common is the emphasis on effort and environment. If you read Jason Ferrugia’s work or Joe DeFranco’s work or any of the WestSide info words like effort, intensity and environment always seem to come up.

This past summer I experimented with a combination of HIT and peer pressure. We did a “test” almost every day. Tests could be 1 RM, 5 RM, or 10 RM but, what they had in common was an attempt to get as many perfect reps as possible with all your teammates watching. It was both fun and productive.

I think it is way too easy to get caught up in the science and forget that young athletes will respond under pressure. Next time you think program design, remember Alwyn’s words “psychology trumps physiology every time”.


3 Responses to “Psychology Trumps Physiology Every Time”

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