Dan John - one of our favourite strength coaches, developed the "Quadrants" to help you classify how you should be training depending on your goals. (image from OTPbooks.com).
"The four quads are determined by two simple concepts:
1. The number of qualities the athlete needs to master the sport
2. The relationship to the Absolute Maximum of each quality"
So what are the quadrants?
Q1: Lots of qualities at a low level
- Physical Education
It's unlikely that you fit into this category if you're reading this. Although we do have some students that follow our pages and train in our gym. But we all likely went through PE class in school. This is where Quadrant 1 fits.
We were introduced to lots of games, sports, movements and strategies at a basic level. This is an important Quadrant. It's basically GPP - General Physical Preparation.
In order to reach your athletic potential it's important to have a large foundation of athletic qualities such as running, jumping, throwing, catching, tackling, evading, strength, endurance and so on.
It's aim is to "perform ANY physical work more or less successfully." - Nikolay Ozolin.
Q2: Lots of qualities at a high level
- Contact sports, fighters and soldiers
Most of the people we work with are footballers and fighters. They fit in this Quadrant, along with Rugby players, and the Defence Force.
What do you need to become the best footballer you can be? Strength, speed, agility, power, mobility, endurance, body armour, skill, strategy, reasonable body comp to name a few... And you need to be relatively high-level in all of them.
This is why more emphasis needs to be put on being a generalist, not a specialist. Contact and combat sports are tough and not for the feint of heart. Train to be as well-rounded as you can.
If you know you're elite in something (i.e. endurance) but piss poor at something else (i.e. strength), spend some time under a bar and filling up the strength bucket!
Q3: Few qualities at a low level
- General population and some elite athletes
Most people fit in here. For health and longevity you should be reasonably strong, relatively fit and be able to touch your toes. Focus on body composition and a healthy diet and you're good to go.
You might be confused by the elite athletes that fall in here. Here's why: take a shot putter for example. They need to be strong and powerful, but no where near as strong and as powerful as a powerlifter. Their sport is about getting "strong enough" not maximising their strength to an elite level.
While they're still a whole lot stronger than the average person, they're no where near as strong as the World's Strongest Man. They need some qualities, but rely mostly on skill, technique and few athletic qualities.
Q4: Few qualities at the highest level
- Elite athletes in some sports
These are the rarest athletes. They need to be pushing the absolute physical limits of human performance to excel. You can think of 100m sprinters, Olympic weightlifters and powerlifters here.
They need to be extremely good at less than a handful of things. Take a powerlifter. They need to be close to reaching their genetic ceiling for strength. They have to squat to a certain level, so they need some flexibility (breaking parallel isn't super flexible). And not much else.
Improvements at this level require expert level coaching and strategy. Plus a consistent grind of drilling the same thing, over and over and over again.
Try and figure out which one you fit into. How can you use this in your own training? Check out the slides accompanying this post.
Hopefully that gives you an idea of where you sit and how you can adjust your training program accordingly.