It’s a Festivus Miracle!

For those of you familiar with the traditions of Festivus, you will obviously remember the “Feats of Strength”. Now while I personally think the airing of the grievances is a much more rewarding custom, the FOS definitely are not without merit. And quite honestly, I think if more Strength and Conditioning coaches embraced them, we would be turning out much stronger athletes.

Now people may say that today’s athletes are bigger, stronger, faster, and I admit that I would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. In fact I wholeheartedly agree, with one exception. Yes athletes are PHYSICALLY bigger, stronger, faster, but I think mentally they have regressed. With all the increased muscle mass, decreased 40 times, and superhuman physical abilities; today’s athletes are mentally SOFT!

Part of that is a direct result of our evolution, if you believe in that sort of thing. We no longer have to hunt down our food, or risk getting eaten by dinosaurs. Then again neither did the athletes of the 50’s and 60’s, and they didn’t appear to be total punks like the kids today. They grew up in a time where no one wore helmets, kids played in the street, and if you started to bleed you just rubbed sand in it. Surprisingly enough we managed to survive. While today’s primadonas spend all day inside in the AC trying to fight off pattern overload of their gamer thumb. Underground Strength Coach Zach Even-Esh was the first to coin the phrase was, but “The Pussification of America” is a very real phenomenon. Training methods have improved, but athletes never really test themselves. I think that any comprehensive strength and conditioning program should address mental toughness as well.

One of the ways to do this is to incorporate strongman exercises into their training. Strongman training has a direct carry over to sports. Unlike the linear movements of the traditional workout, strongman training involves lifting odd shapes things in odd ways. Gravity puts up a much better fight when you take the handle off of things. Rather than create perfect world strength it embraces the chaos. It develops both physical AND mental strength. There is absolutely no way to half ass a 600lb tire flip, or to comfortably carry a 150lb keg filled with water. When loading stones you are going to get bruised. It’s not a matter of IF you will lose skin, but how much. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to be uncomfortable, its going to make you want to quit. But that’s the point. It teaches channeled aggression, and the ability to endure.

That brings us to the finisher. If you don’t know what a finisher is, I am not quite sure how you found this site. Finishers are a great way to get even the best athlete out of their comfort zone. There are times in the gym where a competition will turn a barbell movement into a finisher, but I believe that for the sake of athletes finishers should be used with relation to conditioning. Prowler sprints, hill sprints, carrying and/or dragging something for long distance (a mile), are all good examples. Basically anything conditioning related that makes you think you are having a heartattack, need to puke, or beg for death is a good finisher.

I believe that finishers should be a regular part of an athletes program. Now by regular I don’t mean at the end of every workout. I also don’t mean they should be done once a year like the Festivus Feats of Strength. Finishers should be used consistently yet sparingly. Once or twice a month without any rhyme or reason throw a wrench in your training system, and test your athletes mental toughness. Not only will this type of training increase your overall level of strength and conditioning, it also will give your athlete’s a mental edge. Do you know how much easier the field of play will be after simply enduring this training?

Make training difficult so the game looks easy.




  1. Dan John

    I agree that not every day is “finisher” day…it takes the air out of them to do them too often. Early in the internet, we “sorta” did finishers as a group where someone would lay down a challenge and we had a week or two to deal with it (100 rep challenge or whatever). Now, entire websites and industries are doing the finisher as the meat of training. I think it is a bad idea as, soon, injury and burnout and simple posturing will take over. What happens is that we trade low load and high reps for quality work.

    Great post here…

    • Don

      Coach John,

      I appreciate it. It’s funny though in reading what you wrote I realized that Crossfit is simply a “finisher” workout. That may have been what you were hinting at without saying it, but I definitely agree especially as it pertains to form breaking down and leading to injury.

  2. Will

    I’ve never even thought about it like that, very good article.

  3. Terrance Boyle

    Good Blog. I look forward to more great writing from you. Keep up the awesome work

  4. Thomas Cook

    Your stuff’s great. Keep it up!

  5. John Murcko

    Nice blog… I’m subscribed to your feed now so I’ll be checking in regularly!

  6. Justin

    Its great that you shed light on a few things I didn’t understand. Thank you , hope you keep writing.


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