Weakness. Discomfort. Courage – by Ben Coker

Weaknesses. We all have them. What sets apart those of us that achieve from those of us that don’t? Its not about having less weaknesses but rather having the courage to experience discomfort in addressing your weaknesses.

How many of you take inventory of your weaknesses? How many of you go away and have the courage to tackle your weaknesses head on? How many of you get outside your comfort zone and improve? Those that do are the highest achievers amongst us.

Using myself as an example. When I was a younger lifter (aged 16) with a troublesome low back what did I do? For years I used all the exercises that were available that avoided the low back directly where ever possible and ultimately developed imbalances.  I was building a castle on sand.

At first I was ignorant to the fact, I wasn’t lucky enough to be in a gym with clued up guys and understandably I avoided hitting the low back directly to save my discs. As I got a bit older and more informed I realized that my low back was woeful. It lacked any real strength and stability and not only was it holding back my overall strength in the main lifts, it was making my disc health worse.

For too long a time I lacked the conviction to address this issue due to a mixture of being stuck in a familiar regime, and overwhelmed and even scared by the realization of what I needed to do. I held off and went around matters addressing all other areas to potentially improve lifts but never the low back.

Thankfully all that changed. Somewhere along the way I became a real head case. I was committed to training before but I became relentless after I had an operation to clear up the area. I identified my main weakness, my low back and mustered the courage to take it head on. This wasn’t reckless by any means but it was savage and uncomfortable.

I read up on the area of spinal health taking my understanding of the matter to a new level. In came the deep core work to wake all the related musculature that had just shut down completely after my injury and operation. It was boring and sucked but I did it. Then direct low back work was added on top a soon as possible. I started with bodyweight back extensions but ultimately got to deadlifts and good mornings not long after. Going was tough. The positions and strain felt so unnatural and weak but I dogged on.

People thought I was mad deadlifting and such with a previously troubled and still weak back. I wasn’t. I was sensible. It was what my back needed. It needed to be exposed to stress in order for it to adapt. My ego was in check. Initially I’d come in session after session and pull 60kg! Slowly but surely I’d add weight. Form was always perfect (and remains so to this day). Any sign of form alteration and id cease the lift. When the weights got heavier, I always stopped a couple of reps shy of failure to ensure the muscles didn’t spasm with fatigue like they had done before.

The same was true in squatting. My back strength did not allow me to hold correct posture and therein transfer force from ground to bar. Again, ego in check the weights started light. I lifted lift with perfect form and without a belt. Again madness many cried. Not really. I needed to develop my own ‘internal back belt’, not become dependant on an external source. This isn’t to say everyone should do this. It’s what I wanted to do and it worked very well for me.

Two years on and my back is now a hell of a lot stronger and my lifts are in a whole new realm to what they were back then. My back is still one of my weaknesses and I continue to ensure that I address it and any related issues in my training.

This mind set of tackling weaknesses has helped me massively. Now whenever I see a weakness I tear into it no matter how uncomfortable or daunting. I ask as many people as I can, who can do what I can’t, for feedback and advice and put it into practice. There is no shame in having a weakness, its natural. The quicker you realize this and develop the courage to address the issue, the quicker you will develop.

I write this blog in reflection of recent PBs and sit back proud of what i’ve acheived. Take a look at your own training and performance and see what is lacking. What is your weak link? Once you have found it I urge you to grab it by the scruff of the neck bring it close, taking it head on. It will be hard. You will be uncomfortable but ultimately you’ll be better for it!

Train hard. Train smart. Be strong.


About Elite Kinetics
Ben Coker CSCS & Jamie Bolton UKSCA. Elite Kinetics Strength Training Systems offers a no BS approach to strength training and athletic development. Our moto: 'Train hard. Train smart. BE Strong', is applied to elite-level peformance athletes right through to your recreational warrior wanting abnormal, outstanding results in all areas - bigger, stronger, faster.

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