In my brief stint of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (it’s kind of like submission wrestling) the coaches used to tell us not to “muscle through” the drills in training – that is to say we should be able to rely on solid technique to execute the moves we were trying to do, rather than brute force. Taking the forcefulness out of it would reveal whether the technique was working. If you had to muscle through, it generally meant your technique wasn’t as good as it could be, or that there was one step in your technique that wasn’t quite right and you were neglecting fine tuning it. Ideally, force and technique should work together. But technique should come first.
Sometimes in regular exercise or strength training the easy option is to just “muscle through” things – take a shortcut, do things without preparation, without taking the time to build a solid base, without a proper warm up, without spending time on mobility, to to let technique go for the sake of lifting something a bit too heavy or to get in some extra reps or shave off some time.
It’s always very short term. It’ll get you through the day but without attention to detail it’ll make it less likely that you’ll succeed long term – technique plus force always trumps force alone. You’ll be more likely to get injured, and at some point you’ll hit a plateau that “muscling through” won’t get you through at all.
It can feel like a set back to have to go back to basics or to spend time fine tuning small details, but in reality it’s the only way to get ahead long term. Changing thinking around this is challenging – we all want to do the cool moves asap – but it’s actually part of any good winning strategy.
We have to ask ourselves – do you want to do it, or do you want to do it well? Safely? Artfully? Sustainably?
And importantly, what’s the rush? Is it smart?