“The human body wants to be as lazy as possible; so it’ll only do as much work as is necessary to accomplish a task.” This quote has helped shape my development and philosophy as a coach since I heard it in an exercise science course years ago. Personally I feel the primary goal of a coach is to not only challenge the body as it attempts to achieve this goal, but also to assist the body in achieving this goal. No matter how you dice it both are critical to unlocking the full athletic potential.
If you do a brief search of the internet there are tons of articles discussing how to challenge the body and prevent it from becoming lazy. Unfortunately; at times; it doesn’t take a good coach to make a “hard” workout. In fact, some of the worst coaches have the “hardest” workouts, as these cover up their inability to effectively plan and train. Since those concepts are more prevalent that isn’t the topic we will discuss here. Instead, we will discuss the other part which I feel most coaches fall short of and often misunderstand; helping the body be lazy. While usually lazy is a four-letter word in the athletic world, what we are talking about here is using the minimum amount of energy and effort that the body requires to accomplish a given movement. Most good coaches understand the principle of overload; which states that in order to continue to produce gains from training the athlete has to be presented with a challenge greater than what the athlete is currently accustomed to. For example, if an untrained athlete has never done jumping jacks before asking them to do 10 might pose a significant challenge. However, once the athlete has a few months of training under their belt 10 jumping jacks won’t produce a significant challenge to the body to elicit any significant gains. So to continue to “overload” the athlete we may make them do 25, or change the exercise to something more challenging like burpees.
Why in the world then are we talking about helping the body become lazy? Good question hypothetical person in my head. The reason is simple. While yes we want the body to improve and be able to produce more strength or force, at some point we don’t want the body to be working excessively hard to execute a movement. Let’s take a sprinter for example (I mean my website is called Top Sprint Speed). If you poll most sprinters and ask them to describe their fastest race ever I’d put money on the top 2 answers on the board being either “I don’t remember I just ran”, or “ It felt effortless”. What this means is that the body was doing what it needed to in order to accomplish the task and nothing more. The body was able to create a state of relaxation even while producing forces upwards of 5x their body weight. This is the lazy state we are looking to create. We are trying to create a physical state within the body that has the necessary reserves of speed, strength, power, coordination, flexibility, or even endurance that when called into action they can work in harmony because the body isn’t having to express the maximum levels of each component in order to deliver the result. The body is instead only working as hard as is necessary to accomplish the task.