You Are Not Joe Flacco

You had three options last night.  Perhaps you live under a rock, and were unaware of the biggest athletic event of the day.  There’s a chance that you had ‘better’ things to do, which may be eating ice cream and cuddling with your cat.  Odds are, you watched the Superbowl, either for the commercials, Beyonce’s lip-sync redemption, or to see men in tights.  In the event that your News Feed of band-wagon fans hasn’t informed you yet, the Ravens pulled off a 34-31 victory.


There were a few tense moments at the end of the game, as the possibility of a 49’ers comeback seemed to grow, but their chances were thwarted by killer defense from the Ravens.  Count that as my “Is-Ray-Lewis-a-murderer” joke for the day.  We’ll come back to Ray later.

Last night was Joe Flacco’s night, completing 22 of 33 passes for 287 yards, and securing the MVP award.  That’s pretty damn good for a man who had one respectable season of college football at a D1-A school.  Flacco redshirted his freshman year, threw one completion for eleven yards as a sophomore, transferred to Delaware, and then went 2,783 yards in a 5-6 season and then 4,263 yards and a championship loss.

I distinctly remember the lanky Flacco walking past the University of Delaware Drumline as we waited on the sideline of Tubby Raymond Field prior to a halftime performance.  If you asked me about his potential then, I’d have said this.

In the next few weeks, the number of searches for “Joe Flacco” and any combination of “throwing, workout, training, strength & conditioning, and hot wife” is going to flood the Google, and everyone is going to be interested in how they can be just like Joe.  It happens every February.  Take a look at the Google Trends for “Eli Manning Workout”.

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Across the world, there are millions of football players who want to do what Joe, or Eli, or Aaron, or Drew have done, but there’s a problem.  You are not Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, or Eli Manning.  You are not Joe Flacco.

It has been said numerous times in the strength training community that elite athletes often excel at sports in spite of what they do.  Frequently, you have talented, passionate athletes who are doing silly, ineffective, or downright dangerous exercises, but their drive for success helps them win.  Somewhere on the Tweeter, I once spotted a tweet from a strength coach with the hashtag “Psychology Beats Physiology”.  It’s a more concise version of this overused Ghandi quote:

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Powerful words, but I’m certain that Ghandi is spinning in his grave with the misinterpretation of his words.  Call me pessimistic, but I find that too often that quote is applied to working harder despite evidence that there are better options.  I’m all about working hard, but I’m not about working stupid.

There are people who succeed with improper programming but hard work and drive.  Hell, some of them even excel doing things the ‘wrong way’.  Those people are called outliers, and they’re not normal.  This doesn’t mean that they should be ignored, because they’re often fascinating, but it doesn’t mean that all of your training should be based on what they do.  If we take a “Well the pros do it and it works” approach, then there should be a lot of junior varsity football players who are running as fast as Usain Bolt.

Not only would the be as fast as Usain Bolt, but they’d also have the same intimidating size and brutal strength of Ray Lewis.

This might be one of the few times than I would pick bicep curls over an Olympic lift, although between those two videos, you really just saw two variations on bicep curls.  When you see Bolt’s calve raise/ shrug/reverse curl combo, does anyone really think it’s going to make him faster?

Unfortunately, yes.  Over 4 million folks have viewed that video, and many of them are going to think, “Hey, if I can do that, then I’ll run fast, too!”  The problem is, that you probably won’t.  You don’t have the same genetic gift as Usain, and few people have the same arrogance and cockiness passion to embarrass every single one of your competitors.  You can’t change your parents, but in the big search for training how the pros train, we forget that almost all of us are not pros.

Many of those searching for for Joe Flacco’s workout, or “Ray Lewis Deer Antler Velvet” aren’t strength professionals dedicated to responsible science-based programming; it’s those who can carried away with just trying to follow in a hero’s footsteps.  Too many silly things can happen.


For the record, Deer Antler Velvet doesn’t do much.  Rather than looking at what an individual athlete is doing, look at research, strength training best practices, and successful athletes in the level you are moving towards.  There’s a difference between following what your favorite pro athlete is doing because you like wearing their jersey and their sneakers, and following a program that’s research supported and successfully implemented in multiple programs and facilities.

Stop Googling your favorite player’s training regiment.  Athletes are just like the rest of us, and will seek out the newest, coolest, cutting edgiest off-season conditioning programming that they can get their hands on.  These workouts end up being for ego boosts rather than directly implementing their physiology.  That psychological boost may very well be enough to provide a noticeable result in training, but that doesn’t mean that you should be copying ineffective training.  Find respectable training that demonstrates results in a larger population, not the genetic outliers.

You are not Joe Flacco, but he has turned out to be one hell of a player.  Congratulations to Joe, and to the rest of the Baltimore Ravens.


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