Performance of complex skills deteriorates quickly when you are tired. This is a fact. Studies have proven it, and you’ve probably experienced it firsthand. How well do you climb when you’re pumped? How crisp is your 100th kettlebell snatch as minute 5 comes to a close? Probably not as ideal as you would like. This concept isn’t purely physical either. Decision making and focus tank as fatigue rises as well. Both the physical and mental fatigue play into each other, which can lead to a vicious cycle of rising exhaustion and inevitable failure.
Unless you practice it.
The core principle of training is the SAID principle. This means “Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands.” Basically, stress what you want to improve. Physical and mental performance are intimately tied to one another. Therefore, it is possible to practice technical, non sport specific movements under a reasonable level of fatigue and witness improvement in your actual sport performance.
Focusing on near perfect repetitions under a controlled level of fatigue will develop the mental fitness that can be applied in a performance setting. This mental training can go a long way. I’m going to use climbing as an example, solely because this approach has been successful in my and some of my students’ training. This does not strictly just relate to climbing, however. These principles can be applied to many other disciplines.
Let’s discuss the choice of technical movement to be performed. We want to choose a movement that is “self-limiting.” Basically, if you do the movement incorrectly, you probably will not complete the movement successfully. One of my favorite self limiting movements is the Turkish Get Up.
If you’re familiar with the Get Up, I’m sure you know just how demanding and effective of a movement it can be. If you mess up or rush through a step, you’re setting yourself up for an unsuccessful repetition. If you are not familiar with the Get Up, I suggest you learn. Few (if any) other exercises have as much bang for the buck that the Get Up does.
To start stressing the mental side of the Get Up, we need to add some fatigue. One of my favorite complexes to do this is called the Deep Six. First off, this complex requires proficiency in 6 kettlebell movements: the 1 hand swing, the snatch, the clean, the press, the squat, and the get up. If you are unfamiliar with any of the movements, there’s your starting point. Learn those first. Find the appropriate instructor in your area and make sure you own these movements.
The Deep Six was introduced by Master SFG John Engum, and is the perfect “stress test” for the Get Up. Here’s the basic formula for the complex.
-Don’t set the bell down the entire set
-5 1 Hand Swings
-5 1 Hand Snatches
-5 1 Hand Cleans
-5 1/2 Rack Squats
-1 Reverse Turkish Get Up.
If you attempt to begin this cycle at your current working TGU weight, you will get crushed. This cycle is high volume and you will be too fatigued by the time you hit the TGU. I would recommend starting a bell or two below your current working weight AND start at 3-4 reps of each movement. 1 round consists of completing the cycle with each hand, with about 30-45 seconds of rest between each hand. Rest about a minute between each round. I always like to emphasize the “about” a minute part. If you feel like you need more rest, take it. I have done a Turkish Get Up with a 48 kg (106lb) kettlebell, yet a 20kg bell does more than enough work for me. Don’t be a hero with this.
That’s a short video of half of a round. I would rest 30-45 seconds before moving on to the other hand. Honestly, I usually rest all of the 45 seconds. Because it’s tiring.
A great starting point would be 3 rounds, with 3 reps each of swings, snatches, cleans, presses, and squats. Over time, build the reps and rounds. If you easily complete 5 rounds with 5 reps of the movements, go up a bell and start back at 3.
Let me be clear. This alone won’t turn you into a superstar. There are many pieces to the puzzle of improving performance. The mental side is just one of these pieces and there are an infinite amount of ways to sharpen your mental edge. This is just one of them. Doing a perfect get up while you are tired might help train the mental muscle to nail the correct sequence while you are pumped. It might help you keep your cool and push through points where you yell “take”. It might develop the mental edge to keep your technique sound while you are tired. Maybe, just maybe, it might help you clip the chains.