Success Leaves Clues

Among several trite phrases (one of my current favorites is ‘Train like an athlete to look like an athlete’) that often gets thrown around in the fitness community is that of Success Leaves Clues.  The premise, essentially, is that by looking at the habits of the best/elite performers, we can determine what does and doesn’t work since, by semi-logical extension, these folks are all elite because of those habits.

Make no mistake there is arguably some truth to this but I generally find that people throw around the Success Leaves Clues bit by selectively picking and choosing from whatever habit they happen to want to push; at the same time they tend to ignore that:

  1. The least successful performers usually did the same thing.
  2. There are usually other, far more important habits, that were probably responsible for the results.

So, for example, someone pushing supplements will point out that all high-level bodybuilders used supplements; ergo supplements should be used.  Of course, so do all of the bodybuilding failures in the gym (which arguably make up a far greater percentage of the total supplement users).

I’ve seen the same used to argue for one body part per week training programs with the contention that ‘all top bodybuilders’ use such programs; ergo everyone should use such programs.  This of course ignores that most top bodybuilders used far different programs during the majority of their training or the fact that the majority of people seem to get little out of such routines (this is discussed in more detail in Training Frequency for Mass Gains). On and on it goes.

Of course, there is usually a set of commonalities among top performers.  And that commonality (as I discussed in the ranty Training Secrets) is 10 or more years of dedicated hard and smart work to a rather singular goal, usually combined with with at least some level of talent or potential in that sport.    The rest of it is usually details.

However, in my endless examination of top performers in a variety of sports, I have found what I think may be the true commonality between them all.   As part of my carefully selected data set, examine the following four pictures of athletes from fairly disparate sports.

Chad Hedrick: Long Track Speed Skater
Chad Hedrick

This is Chad Hedrick, arguably the best inline speed skater ever and one of the greatest to touch the ice.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan

I’d certainly hope that Michael Jordan needs no further explanation beyond his name.

Shani Davis: Long and Short-track
Shani Davis

Shani Davis is another ice speedskater, he’s competed at the highest levels in both short-track speed skating and long-track speedskating.

Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong

Finally is Lance Armstrong, winner of 7 Tour De France titles and one of the greatest human beings ever to touch a bike.

Have you noticed the commonality yet among the four athletes above?  If not, the picture below of a bunch of different athletes (the only one I recognize is Usain Bolt) should give away what I’m getting at.

A bunch of athletes
A bunch of athletes

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That’s Right: It’s the Tongue

Yup, the tongue. Clearly the commonality between all of these elite athletes has nothing to do with their sport, their genetics, their years of grindingly hard training, or anything else.  It’s the tongue.  And I’m honestly surprised I’m the first to notice this.  Ok, I should give Paul Chek credit for his comments about tongue position during abdominal work.  But that’s different.

Clearly the key to elite performance, the clue shared by all of these athletes, is sticking the tongue out. It makes me wonder how or if they practice this.  Do elite athletes have a genetic tendency to let their tongues hang out?  Are coaches doing tongue sticking out drills (please keep it clean in the comments section folks)?  How is this being periodized?  How is progressive overload being applied?  Will we see everyone at commercial gyms hanging their tongues out after they read this piece?  When will Crossfit implement this into the WOD?  So many questions, so few answers.

Perhaps more importantly, why isn’t anybody jumping on this bandwagon.? E-books about optimizing tongue position should be forthcoming to be ordered through Clickbank to generate massive affiliate payouts.  In fact, I’m wondering if I should have written my own rather than giving away this secret for free.  Ah well.

But now you have it, the key to elite performance: and it’s all in the tongue.

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A Tad of Seriosity

While I’m fairly sure that someone will manage to take this post completely seriously in the comments (as they did with the now classic Keeping the Power Inside the Bar), I’m hoping it’s obvious (check the date) that this was meant to be a rather tongue in cheek post.  Or perhaps tongue outside the cheek would be more accurate (do you see what I did there?).

However, I’d like to finish with one slightly serious comment regarding this little bit of nonsense and that has to do with relaxation.  One commonality among top level performers is the ability to put out massive amounts of effort while staying relatively ‘relaxed’.  My speed skating coach called this relaxed intensity and it’s based on the idea that you let the intensity come instead of forcing it.   Because when you try to force it, you tighten up and that tends to impair optimal performance.

Sprint coaches have talked about this for decades, top 100m sprinters often look half asleep even as they blast to amazing times and it holds for some other sports as well; a relaxed face means a relaxed performance even as other muscle groups work at maximum.  You only want the involved musculature to be working at maximal intensity under most conditions, tension elsewhere just drains energy that could be more profitably used, assuming it doesn’t affect technical performance in other negative ways.

And, simply, it’s hard to be tense with your tongue hanging out of your mouth.  Of course, this is probably a bad idea for sports like powerlifting or Olympic lifting (unless you want to bite the thing off) but I think you get the idea I’m getting at.

So it’s true success leaves clues.  Apparently that clue is a line of drool on the ground behind the performer because their tongue is hanging out of their mouth.

Happy April Fools Everyone!

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