September 25, 2007

by Matt Wiggins – MMAWeekly.com

Working Smart or Working Hard

My dad is a pretty cool dude. He’s
into hot rods (I grew up around and working on cars), he likes good rock &
roll music, we always watched football together, and he’s the one that was the
main driving and supporting force for me when I decided to pour my efforts into
working out (a lot of what I do now is still based on stuff he taught me) as a

My dad was also pretty smart. Amongst
a lot of other things, he taught me the value of effective communication, of
common sense, and of working smart, rather than hard.

Let’s talk about that last one for a

He always told me that it wasn’t
ever a good idea to work hard when you could work smart. Always find the most
effective way to do something. If this means using tools effectively, or
finding ways to put in less effort, and it doesn’t mean shortcutting progress
or quality, then by all means do it!

I remember one of the first times
this valuable lesson hit me – one of those moments where the light bulb
goes off over your head and you say "Aha!"

I was helping him work on a VW Bug.
If I remember right, I was trying to loosen a nut on the front suspension. I
was using an open-end/box-end wrench, and just couldn’t get it loose – it
was just too tight. I was torquing it for all I was worth and I just couldn’t
get it.

He came over and showed me how to
loop another open-end/box-end wrench into the free end of the one I was using
to make an overall longer lever. I pushed on the two wrenches locked into each
other, and with hardly any effort, the nut came loose. Just seconds before, I
was using all my might and getting nowhere. Now I was putting hardly any
effort in, and achieving success.

In most areas of life, I’d say that
the lesson of working smart instead of hard is one of the most valuable lessons
you can learn. However, such isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to
strength and conditioning.

In certain fitness circles (and I’m
not going to name what, who, or where – there are enough arguments and
flame wars going on all over the internet … look around a little, you’ll find
them), the idea of working smart instead of hard has come up. It hasn’t been
termed that in so many words, but it’s the same idea.

You’ve got some folks that think
that performing exercises and/or workouts in certain fashions that allow you to
do more work are better for you. You are lifting more weight or doing more
reps, so you’re getting more benefit, right?

As ESPN college football analyst Lee
Corso says, "Not so fast my friend!"

Most times, working smart rather
than hard lets you accomplish your work/goals in an easier fashion. And this
is fine, as the work you’re making smart (rather than hard) is what you’re
actually trying to accomplish something in.

However, with strength and
conditioning (S&C) training, this isn’t necessarily the case. You see,
S&C training is preparation for competition – in the case of most of
MMAWeekly’s readers, it’s for jiu-jitsu, boxing, MMA, wrestling, or some other
combat sport.

It’s what you’re competing at that
you want to make easier by working smart rather than hard. You’re not
competing at your workouts; your workouts prepare you for competition. If you
are finding ways to accomplish your workout through anything other than making
yourself stronger or more conditioned, then you’re cheating yourself when it
comes to being ready for competition.

Let’s look at a basic example
(though it might not necessarily have the most carryover to MMA, it’ll give you
an idea of what I’m talking about). Back in my article about technique, I
talked about how I could help somebody increase their bench press almost
instantly. Learn how to arch the back, squeeze the shoulders, tense the lats,
pull the bar apart – all these little techniques will let you bench more
weight. It’s not uncommon for trainees who learn how to do these things
correctly to add 30 lbs. to their bench press in a matter of a workout or two.

Now, did that trainee get stronger?
No. He got more efficient at his benching technique.

I’m not going to get into the whole
technique debate, as I’ve done that already. But it applies to the idea of
working smarter rather than harder. In this case, the trainee just found a way
to work smarter rather than harder. The result? His bench press went up.

This is good right? Yeah, but the
problem is that we’re not training to compete in a bench press contest. We
train to compete in MMA. Did these little tricks help his bench press maximum
go up? Sure. Will this ability to suddenly move more weight have carryover to
his MMA? Probably not. And the same can be said for a variety of different
protocols for exercising.

Now, does this mean we should go out
and look to make our S&C training as hard as possible? No, but yes. We
don’t want to exercise or train in a way that is potentially dangerous (doing
heavy push presses standing on a swiss ball is gonna be a lot tougher than
standing on the floor!), but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to work our tail
off or look for every "trick of the trade" for our training.

Going back to the bench press
example above, the little tricks I mentioned are great for somebody training to
compete in bench press competitions. They won’t do as much for the mixed
martial artist.

It’s like I say about a lot of my
training and the programs I put together for people – they might be
simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy. My signature I use says it as simple as
I can make it, "Train Hard, Rest Hard, Play Hard." Just find smart
ways to do all three and you’ll be set.

Train Hard, Rest Hard, Play Hard. 

Matt "Wiggy" Wiggins is a strength coach and
author living in Cameron, NC. Having trained 15+ years, Wiggy is a strength
moderator at mma.tv, columnist for MMA Weekly, and an avid fan of
Mixed Martial Arts Training. His site, Working
Class Fitness.com
, is dedicated to designing low-tech, high-result MMA
, Navy SEAL Workouts, and programs for
"regular joes."

ATTENTION: Physical exercise
can sometimes lead to injury. The information contained at
WorkingClassFitness.com and MMAWeekly.com is NOT intended to constitute an
explanation of any exercise, material, or product (or how to use/perform them).
WorkingClassFitness.com and MMAWeekly.com are not responsible in any way,
shape, or form for any injury that may result from any person’s attempt at
exercise as a result of the information contained herein. Please consult a
physician before starting any exercise program, and never substitute the
information on this site for any professional medical advice or treatment you
may receive.