Minimum Viable Program … not where you thought we were going with this, is it? In athletics, we admire those going above and beyond to achieve great things but how do we know they are going above? The only way to know that is to have a solid understanding of what is the minimal viable program needed to accomplish a baseline athleticism.
Have you ever considered the minimum it would take to reach your goal? It is worth the effort. I see a lot of people get caught up in the details of the performance world running here, there, and everywhere to try the newest this or that to gain an edge. Often, these additions or changes to their program work as distractions from the really important aspects of their training but they don’t realize it because they are so focused on the above and beyond they don’t pay enough attention to their MVP.
MVP’s for athletics have certain things in common:
You need strong muscles.
You need a strong cardiovascular system.
You need a certain amount of flexibility.
You need to be able to use these three things in coordination.
You need to be able to build and repair.
These 5 things are the essence of athletic training. The art of your program comes by determining which ones are most important and deserve the most focus. Here’s a couple examples:
If you’re a golfer, a bowler, or an archer, you need some strength. Given the nature of your game, you don’t need a great deal of cardiovascular reserves, walking is the top end required for your game. You need just enough flexibility for the range of motion you use for your sport but you need a great deal of coordination and repeatability in the sport-specific movements. And what about build and repair? You’re going to need some muscular repair — every activity causes breakdown somewhere. But your physical build and repair for a barebones program are going to be pretty low.
Your sport requires a high degree of concentration for each shot or throw so you will need to pay attention to the amount of sleep that can optimize your powers of concentration. Based on these needs assessment, where should you spend the build of your bare-bones program resources?
But what if you’re a runner, cyclist, or triathlete? You’re going to need the muscles to power your performance — that means a solid strength training program designed to create power-generating muscles. Obviously, you are going to need a strong cardiovascular system.
Endurance events provide a long time for damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones to occur. These are going to need time to repair. You’re going to need to ensure you are getting the right nutrition to support the build and repair process for all those tissues.
You’ll need a baseline flexibility in the range of motion used in your sport. Due to the repetitive nature of these motions, athletes tend not to deviate out of standard ROM very often, so, at bare-bones, being super flexible is not necessary.
What about football, soccer, or lacrosse? You’re going to need to have some cardiovascular endurance, some strength, you’re going to need to be coordinated because you’ll be moving in a number of different planes at once. And you’re going to need to be flexible, both mentally and physically. Due to the unpredictable nature of play development, you never really know what movements the play is going to call for so you need lots of strength and flexibility in your toolbox. Of course, all this movement is going to create a lot of wear and tear on your body so you are going to need to make building and recovery a high priority.
Now compare your bare-bones training needs to how you are actually training. Where are your priorities? New golf sunglasses for match day but not getting enough sleep at night? You may have your priorities out of whack.
Are you a cyclist that lives on goo and protein shakes to fuel your training? Perhaps you need to make time to cook meals from whole foods to provide your body with the trace elements and a variety of different kinds of protein building blocks to aid in the building and repair of your muscles. Spending lots of time in the saddle but none in the weight room? How are you going to develop those power muscles? It’s time to hit the weights to grow your muscle mass so you can learn to use it to generate more power through the pedals — that’s something that doesn’t happen as well if you’re just upping your mileage.
And what about you contact sport athletes? Flexibility is usually the lowest item on the to-do list but your sport requires you to maintain power and speed, even at the end ranges of your flexibility. To make that happen, you need to make flexibility and coordination a priority.
Athletics follow the 80/20 Rule. 80% of your results will come from 20% of your training. It’s that last 20% that separate the good from the great and the great from the pros. If you want to move beyond good, you’re going to have to do more of the right things than the rest of your competitors. To find those right things, you have to look beyond the distractions of what everyone else is doing and figure out what is really a barebones need in your sport and what efforts will truly take you above and beyond.