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Don't Use A Hammer To Cut A Board: How Special Athletes Become Special

Turning My Back on the "It's my Way or the Highway' Thought Process

“Hey Coach Jochum, I saw (Insert Professional Athlete) doing (Insert Insta Famous looking exercise here), why don’t we do those, wont that make us better athletes?”

“Aw yes, we totally have been messing up our whole program because we haven’t done that exercise or don’t have that tool or don’t do foot work drills.”

Is the response they are looking for, but if I really am going to be truthful my real answer would be “It’s worthless, its all worthless” I don’t say that because I love that my athletes are looking for ways to better themselves and their teammates, but it’s the truth. Sets, Reps, Special exercises and tempos by themselves are all worthless. There is no magic bullet to creating a special athlete. There are better and more efficient ways than others, but what it all comes down to is stimulus and the response to that stimulus. That’s why it all works. Its also why it all doesn’t work. Programming is such a delicate balance of this and its why strength coaches get paid the big bucks LOL! (Refer back to last blog on “Why I Don’t do it for Money is Bullshit”)

Let’s break down why these magic exercises aren’t going to change (by themselves) who you are as an athlete.

Stimulus and Adaptation

When We look at the above chart, we can start to get a base understanding of the whole stimulus vs adaptation model. Imagine you as a blank slate athlete with no training experience. You have a base line of fitness or performance. When you introduce a new stimulus (Weather it be cross fit, ladder drills, power lifting or any other thing you can think of) you see that your performance falls, this is known as the resistance or fatigue state.

“So, Coach Jochum you’re saying training makes us worse”

Well hold up young padawan, this is meant to be. To get to a state of supercompensation or improvement we need our body to experience this dip in performance. Basically, your body is saying “WTF just happened to me and how can I avoid it next time” so it adapts. Whether that means it gets stronger, faster or just better at said task (this is why you can get better at certain tasks like a ladder drill but not actually faster or more agile) it happens because the stimulus told your body it needed to improve.

“So, you’re saying all I have to do is give my body a stimulus and then I will make gains,

what’s the point of having a coach if anything works”

Again, just hold up here. At your base level with no training experience any stimulus will cause this adaption. Your body is used to nothing so anything will cause change. However, as your body starts to learn new stimuluses it becomes used to them and that same stimulus will not have the same adaptation. This is where the balance comes in. You must learn how, when and where to apply new stimuluses. This is how you progress. Therefore, that special exercise is not what sets a program apart and its not what made that athlete special. Its huge to say this in the social media wars of strength coaches, but its true, a speed ladder never made a special athlete, but neither did Olympic lifting, power lifting, sprinting or plyometrics. A combination of these things, along with many other things (genetics, tactical understanding, attitude, passion, etc..) did. A combination of any type of stimulus caused some sort of favorable adaptation for that special athlete. This combination of stimuluses that led to these adaptations is also totally different for every single athlete. What makes one athlete strong doesn’t make another athlete strong. What makes one athlete fast doesn’t make another. So not only is it the correct use and progression of stimuluses that needs to be addressed but then the individual factor of looking at past stimuluses an athlete has been exposed to and how they reacted. An athlete that has grown up his entire life power lifting has probably reached his ceiling of adaptation that power lifting can provide him for his sport so maybe more plyometric and speed work needs to be done. On the other hand, an athlete that has grown up a tactically skilled athlete and has only pretty much played his sport his entire life maybe needs more general strength to exhibit a different adaptation (injury prevention and durability).

That’s why I truly believe coaches that swear by one method are doing their athletes an injustice. A hammer may be good at putting in a nail but really bad at cutting a board. You wouldn’t see any construction worker argue that point with you. But every day there are social media battles amongst coaches arguing that their tool is better than the next coaches, when in reality all of them can be and should be used. How to actually do this would require a much larger blog (or book) but that’s not the point of this article. The point of this article is to realize that nothing is special and that as coaches and athletes alike we should keep our tool box open. And if your tool box isn’t open lets start to take a look at why? Is it because you have the best interest of the athlete in mind or is it your ego you’re trying to guard. Don’t be cutting a board with a hammer because you’re to stubborn to go back on a tweet.

Hopefully this provided some insight for you. If you have any questions or topics you want covered email me at ( Would love to go more in-depth on this topic as well for anyone interested. Keep Chopping wood!

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