Strength is a Habit
by Steven M. Ledbetter
2 minute read
Why can Jon North snatch 166kg and I can’t? Because he’s snatched 165kg. Pavel tells everyone at RKC certs who’s paying attention that “strength is a skill” and he’s absolutely right. But a skill is an outcome. How does one acquire a skill? By doing it a lot. The process of acquiring a skill is habitual practice. So strength is actually a habit.
In the spirit of Dan John’s quadrants, let’s look at what snatching 166kg takes. Power, mobility, technique, and focus are just a few of the qualities required for this feat. But those are only the qualities that are needed at the moment you step on the platform; the skills that are the outcome of practice. Go out another level. What’s it take to snatch 166kg? What’s the habit of John North’s strength? Jon North shows up to California Strength and snatches every day. He squats every day. He spends hours in the positions, every day. He is successfully snatching weight every day. He has consistently and progressively accumulated the qualities necessary to snatch 166kg by successfully snatching weights from 20kg-165kg and allowing his body to recover. He has made success a habit just as he has made snatching a habit. He has not only trained his body to handle the stress of snatching 166kg, he has trained his mind to have the confidence that he can actually do it. The habit has become skill.
“Consistency trumps intensity.” The best programs and the best coaches in the world recognize this process. The best athletes respect this process. Why do Mark Rippetoe’s Starting Strength, Bill Starr’s 5x5, Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1, Pavel’s Power to the People, Pavel’s Enter the Kettlebell and (especially) Pavel’s Grease the Groove work so well for beginners and intermediate lifters? They make the patterns and volume habits and adjust the load as skill of strength improves. You just have to show up and do it. Why does the Pavel and Dan John’s 40-Day Program and Easy Strength work so well for advanced athletes? They maintain the habits of pattern and volume at a lower load in the face of the longer recovery times necessary for advanced athletes who already have acquired the skill of strength. But you still have to show up and do it.
In the beginning of any journey, it can be frustrating that you aren’t there yet. But when you know that you’re on the right path, you just have to keep moving forward. The destination is no longer a spot on a map, it’s fate. When Jon North steps onto the platform, he’s not surprised to see 166kg staring back at him. He’s been headed there for years. This is just the last step on a journey and being strong is the result. Strength is the habit of showing up.