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Image by Jesper Aggergaard

When Training More is Not Better.

Trying to out work the competition by training more does not always yield a compeditive advantage.

In fact many times it leaves athletes in a tougher spot then when they started.

I think it is great when athletes want to get better at their sports. It is commendable when someone has the work hard attitude that allows them to get out to the field and work on their craft. However this usually ends up in them just training more. Take wide receivers for example, I know many receivers who will catch 100’s of balls a day, run routes, do extra footwork be it ladders or other implements all in an effort to be the best.

However, some of these same receivers seem prone to injury. Why? I think it may have something to do with all the extra work they are doing. What many athletes fail to realise is that simply outworking the competition is not enough. If it were that easy then the best athletes in the world would just train 24 hours a day every day until we invented some sort of way to slow time and allow them to train more. This would then be the only way to drive performance. Instead, special attention needs to be given to the Amount / Type / and Effectiveness of the work being done.

Before you look to implement any additional training on your own time, put it through these three filters to ensure that it will indeed improve your performance. We have all heard the old phrase that we need to “work smarter not harder.” In many cases this is true, I believe it is more that we should work harder at smarter training thus yielding the best results.

[bctt tweet=”Do not just Work Smarter not Harder, Try to Work Harder at Smarter Training” username=”dsmstrength”]

Amount – Not Just Training More

Every piece of work that you wish to complete has a price. Think of your body as a car on a full tank of gas. Each day / week / month / year you will have a set amount of gas that can be applied to your training. This means that you will not always accomplish your goals by training more. When you have burned through this gas you will need to rest, eat, and recover in order to refuel. Just like your car will burn more gas if you are accelerating hard, stop and go, city driving, or taking long trips so to will your body during heavy lifting sessions, hard endurance workouts, high intensity sprints, cuts or deceleration’s. There is a cost to doing business of all the work that you wish to do. Over time we can train our bodies to be more fuel efficient by gradually increasing the amount of work but this needs to be thought out and progressed appropriately. 

A great way to limit the amount of work that you do is to rank your training goals from most important to least important. After you have ranked these goals dedicate time to them in order of importance. For example if you want to get better at catching footballs, get stronger, and get faster in that order then you should dedicate your time 50%, 30%, and 20% to these goals respectively. This helps to limit getting to far from the original training goals, and keeps you on task developing the skills that are most important.


The extra work that you would like to do should all have a goal in mind. If you want to get faster for example then extra work should be centered around increasing your strength, power, and technique for sprinting faster. This type of work may include weight lifting, jumping, plyometrics, sprint drills, tempo runs, and all out sprints. If you would like to get better at running routes then perhaps your work is spent breaking down the routes into pieces and working on the pieces individually. By breaking the type of improvement you want down into its parts and working on the qualities that make it up you can ensure that the type of work you are doing will actually improve the skill you are trying to improve.

Simply performing increasingly complex ladder or footwork drills will have little carryover to a specific sporting skill.

training more, work smarter not harder, work harder at smarter training


Success leaves clues. The best athletes in the world use specific techniques and training styles to achieve their specific goals. They do not accomplish this by just training more. For instance 100m sprinters train a certain way to be the fastest humans on the planet. Powerlifters and Weightlifters have their own ways of training to become strong and powerful for their chosen endeavors. While I am not advocating that the average sporting athlete train exactly like a 100m sprinter to become faster, or a powerlifter to become stronger there are clues in their training that can help develop those qualities. Take for example the 100m sprinter, a considerable amount of time will be spent with these athletes doing specific speed drills, tempo runs, acceleration work etc. They do not have time to waste any additional effort on drills or methods that do not yield results. Further the nature of the sport they compete in is determined by time, the training either works and their time got faster or it didn’t. Appreciate this vetting process that happens naturally for training methods in other chosen disciplines when choosing your drills and techniques for training.  

Final Thoughts

The next time you want to simply out train the opponents take a step back and run any additional work that you want to do through the filters of amount, type and effectiveness. Make sure that you are not simply adding more work for the sake of more work, adding the right type of work for the skills you want to develop, and adding the most effective versions of that work.

“Work Harder at Smarter Training”


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