Written by Blaine Sumner
PLAN YOUR WORK AND WORK YOUR PLAN
“Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.”
In today’s world of the need for immediate gratification and short attention spans, the planning phase of the work for a strength athlete is often overlooked. Failure to have a plan is planning to fail. Planning can be a tedious process, and if you are fully dedicated to your success, it should be. But planning isn’t supposed to be the fun part; smashing weights and scoring touchdowns are. In this article I am going to cover the difference between reacting and responding, and how your planning will dictate your path and success. Planning covers far more than a 12 week training cycle or a 3 hour practice; planning needs to be done on the macro level, all the way down to the smallest movement pattern of a single rep or step.
Why you need to set yourself up to RESPOND and not REACT:
The difference between a reaction, and a response is that a reaction is the consequence of an unforeseen circumstance; a response is the consequence of a foreseen circumstance.
An example of a reaction would be a running back making a juke to the left, and you react by lunging in that direction to make a tackle and leaving your jockstrap on the ground. An example of a response would be seeing that same running back make a juke, but you stay light on your feet and stay home until you are close enough to fire your hips and deck the running back, forcing the fumble, becoming the hero, and consequently taking home the prom queen. What separated the REACTION from the RESPONSE is that in the first case, the athlete saw something unexpected and this dictated his next move. But in the second case, the athlete had practiced his tackling drills hundreds of times in his head and on the field, and had planned what he was going to do if the running back juked. The more time you spend planning something, and the more you practice it, the more prepared you are when things don’t go as expected.
Although football is a great example, this planning and responding phase can get all the way down to the barbell. When a lifter is coming out of the hole on a squat and their weight all of a sudden shifts forward, will they react by dumping the weight over their head, or respond by pushing their knees out and driving their elbows under the bar to regain their balance and finish the lift? The only way a person can improve their craft is by practice. This can be done on the platform, on the field, or in your head. The ability to go through every possible scenario of what may go wrong, and have a response plan for it is one thing that separates great athletes from the rest.
Prepare yourself for the worst case scenario and create a plan for yourself to succeed. One of the biggest locations of improvement for my lifting career was when I went from training “instinctively” to developing an in-depth plan. I used to never write training plans out because I thought my football practice schedule, class schedule, and work schedule were all too hectic to have a plan. I’d go into the gym when I thought I had free time and decide what exercises and what reps I am going to do that day. It worked and I got stronger, but it was far from optimal. When I started planning my training religiously, I stayed healthier, made more consistent gains, and felt great heading into meets. I started planning what I was going to do every day, 7 days a week. What exercises I was going to do, every set, and every rep for 12-16 weeks leading up to a meet. And before I stepped foot into the gym for that day’s training session, I had already reviewed the previous session on video 10 times and had ran through my next training session 100 times in my head.
If you want to master your craft, you must become obsessive about it and be able to have as much control over every single variable as you can. If you want to become the best, you will find ways to be the best. Don’t make excuses to get better, make sacrifices to get better.
Blaine Sumner is a drug-free powerlifter who competes in the IPF and USAPL both raw and single ply. He holds the IPF Raw World Record for Squat (881 no wraps) and Total (2,056) in addition to winning the 2012 IPF Raw World Championship. Sumner played Division II football at the Colorado School of Mines where he started at nose tackle for 4 years in addition to scoring 8 touchdowns as a short yardage fullback. He also set NFL testing records for 225 bench reps (52) and Kirwan Explosive Index (95).
In addition to having a 33” Vertical Jump and 50” box jump at 350 lbs., Sumner was a 4 sport athlete in high school (Football, Wrestling, Lacrosse, Track). He is originally from Colorado and now lives in Oklahoma City where he trains at HATE Barbell and works as a Petroleum Engineer.