Do You Subscribe to the Weakest Link Theory?

Fitness & Training Tips
By Dan

About Dan

I’m one of our resident Exercise Physiologists, and also an accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach, Personal Trainer and Level 1 Weightlifting Instructor. Outside of the gym, I tend to go in search of good food and great coffee. And yes, Dan’s Shoulder Stretch is mine.
The theory is very simple – in whatever you try to do (your goals), there is always a “weakest link,” or rate limiting step. I think this has far reaching effects in the gym and is very often overlooked. Rather than trying to drive a square peg into a round hole, it often pays to step back and assess WHY something isn’t improving. Sometimes it’s as simple as finding the weakest link and working hard on it to improve the overall skill.
I’m going to give you a couple of examples, but the theory can be applied to any skill or lift in the gym. What I want you to take away from these examples is to think about where you’re most “stuck (the weak link).”  Then think about what you’ve been doing to get around this weak link. Does it really address the weakest link in the skill? Sometimes it takes a trained eye to know where the weaknesses really are – so don’t be afraid to ask.


  •  The Strict Muscle Up
There are a number of possible “weak links” en route to your first strict muscle up. The strength required is around 5 strict chins and 5 strict dips with a 12kg or 8kg (for females) weight for both movements. You need adequate shoulder extension (think the hard version of shoulder dislocates) otherwise it becomes very difficult to transition through the rings. Your wrists need enough flexibility and strength to hold a false grip with a straight arm. It’s no good doing extra pull ups and dips if the wrist and grip is what you need to work on.


  •  The Deadlift


 This one comes up ALL the time. There are a number of potential weak links in this movement. Firstly, do you have the mobility to do a deadlift? Not only will tightness increase injury risk, it inhibits the amount of force you can generate in that muscle. A tight hamstring is a weak hamstring.
Where do you get stuck on a heavy deadlift? Is it from the floor, or near the top of the movement, and you just can’t lock out? Does your back bend near the bottom of the spine, or does it stay fairly straight throughout the lift?
Each of these weak points requires a different approach. Low back bending needs more low back strength (weighted extensions, good mornings). Struggling to move the bar off the floor might require some practice at deficit deadlifts (i.e standing on a plate). Getting stuck near the top of the lift will warrant doing extra rack pulls or using bands and chains.
Even though these examples are strength related, you can apply this theory to anything, including weight loss. Sometimes the weak link is not the diet, but rather your poor stress management, or allergy to a food that you didn’t even know about. Work on the weakest link and watch everything else improve!