Why You Should Avoid Specialization
A Case For The HYBRID Athlete!
by Alec Enkiri | 10/18/21
The legendary Kenny Powers once said "I play real sports. I'm not trying to be the best at exercising." But today, contrary to what Kenny Powers thinks, I'm going to tell you exactly why you should strive to be the best at exercising! Today we're going talk about becoming the hybrid athlete! I'm going to define exactly what that means to me, and I'm going to make a case for why it's the ultimate form of fitness and pretty much all of you should be striving to become the most badass hybrid athlete you can become. Time to become the best exerciser out there!
This fucking guy.
The idea of specialized fitness runs rampant throughout the fitness industry. This is, in fact, the concept marketed and sold by most fitness influencers. They are one trick ponies. And that's fine for them because they make a living doing it - bodybuilders, powerlifters, fitness models, endurance oriented athletes, 'shred' specialists, etc. These "somatotypes" are the quintessential composite of the modern fitness industry. They each perform a relatively to highly specialized function, and they are each experts in their own specific domain.
However, the result of this rampant specialization is the segmentation of fitness amongst the fitness consumer. Most people who become immersed in the consumerism side of this industry end up eventually latching onto a specialist (or group of specialists), either because they have an initial interest in that particular goal or simply because they like the personality of that particular individual. From there they get sucked into that same world of specialization to a much larger extent than they can derive any tangible benefit from, as they do not make a living doing it and the specialized function itself only carries so much intrinsic value.
So today I offer you guys a better way. Today I present the concept of the hybrid athlete according to Enkiri Elite Fitness. This approach is applicable to a much broader population of people than the traditional approach of specialized fitness.
What The Heck is a Hybrid Athlete!?
So what exactly is a "hybrid athlete" anyway? A hybrid athlete is basically - and I write this with the most positive connotation one can connote given our current cultural ethos - a jack of all trades as it pertains to fitness. Now I know some smart ass is already thinking to himself "jack of all trades, master of none." But that dude is ignoring how the quote ends. The full saying goes:
Jack of all trades, master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.
You see, in the real world, specialization is actually an abomination. It is not really a positive adaptation; it is a mal-adaptation; it is an overreaction; it is a hindrance. Look at the marathon runner. He's super fit! He can basically run forever. And while that's all very impressive, the fact is, I can knock him over with my pinkie finger. Look at the powerlifter. Big, swole, scary, strong as fuck, man. All that shit. But I can run circles around him until his head starts spinning and he keels over. Look at the bodybuilder. Jacked out of his mind, such beautiful muscles! But humans aren't fucking peacocks, dude. Unless you can take flight after you spread those huge lats then you're literally just a pageant queen.
Out of shape
My point really is this, we as humans choose to go out of our way to reward specialization because we like seeing the limits pushed. We love seeing what the human body is capable of on the extreme end of the spectrum, so we reward it with praise and attention and oftentimes money, and we artificially make this mal-adaptation something desirable. But internally you cannot escape biology. It's simply not healthy to be an immobile sack of meat. It doesn't really matter how strong you are or how lean you are. Eventually it's going to catch up to you, not just because of the sheer size, but also because of the things that you will be required to do to build and maintain that size, up to and including eating an insanely large number of calories per day. And I love food probably more than 99% of you, but there's no denying the evidence that long term caloric restriction is actually highly correlated with increased longevity. The hardcore powerlifter or bodybuilder lifestyle is simply not congruent with this ideology.
On the other end of the spectrum, it's simply not healthy to pound your joints into oblivion every single day as you trudge along for mile after mile after mile just to get your daily workload in. It's not healthy to live in a state of chronic catabolism while your muscle tissue slowly wastes away like you're dying of AIDS - which is literally the adaptation to chronic and excessive low intensity cardio - until what you're left with is a weak, frail body that can sustain pointlessly low effort activity indefinitely. Sounds like a mal-adaptation to me.
Further, you cannot escape the reality of the external world either. The marathoner gets cornered by a guy on the street, what the fuck is he gonna do about it? The hybrid athlete always has a fighting chance. The powerlifter or the bodybuilder gets jumped by a group of 3 or 4 guys...he's fucked. It doesn't matter how big and strong you are when you're outnumbered like that. But the hybrid athlete? You gotta catch him first and that motherfucker is fast.
The hybrid athlete is not a master of any single domain, but he is formidable across every single domain. He carries enough mass to be imposing, but not so much that it slows him down. He can run fast enough to get himself out of trouble, and he can sustain it long enough that his conditioning and work capacity are never a problem. He's strong enough to be in the same room as elite strength athletes and not look out of place. He's powerful like an Olympic weightlifter, but also elastic like a track athlete. He can climb a mountain or run a respectable mile time on a whim. He's jacked, he's strong, he's athletic, and he's well conditioned. That is a motherfucking hybrid athlete.
This article in video format on my YouTube channel!
It's NOT Crossfit
At this point some of you are undoubtedly saying "just do Crossfit." But here's the thing, Crossfit gets some aspects of this whole concept right in their quest for the sport of overall fitness, or whatever they call it, but many of their chosen modalities and parameters absolutely freaking suck. So personally, I would never partake in Crossfit. You're never going to see me doing rhythmic box jumps until failure or any other idiotic things like that because, frankly, I like my Achilles tendons unruptured. Maybe that's just me...but the point is it's too haphazard overall. Now, ironically, the elite Crossfitters, the ones who are actually doing well at the games, actually probably train in a much smarter fashion as often as they possibly can. But still, no matter how good you are there's no escaping the need for some specific prep work if you want to excel in competition, and where Crossfit is concerned, "specific prep work" means allowing the body to accumulate very large amounts of fatigue during highly technical and/or ballistic movement patterns. Which is point blank fucking stupid. So the hybrid athlete is NOT a Crossfitter.
But he BORROWS from Crossfit where it suits him. He also borrows from powerlifting, and Olympic lifting, and strongman where it suits him. He borrows from general strength and conditioning and performance coaching where it suits him. He borrows from track and athletics where it suits him. He borrows from yoga where it suits him. He borrows from calisthenics where it suits him. And yes, he even borrows from bodybuilding, and I think you know exactly where this is going so say it with me:
Where it suits him!
So Why Become a Hybrid Athlete?
So now you know exactly what I mean when I use the term hybrid athlete. But why? Why should you train this way? Why should you forgo the concept of mastery and instead choose to become as fitness-ly well rounded as possible? I think the answer there is multi-faceted, but for me, it really boils down to creating the optimal marriage between long term health and overall functionality and capability - both now, today, in terms of all the activities you are able to partake in and challenges you are able to easily overcome and tackle - as well as down the road when you get a bit older and you start having to consider quality of life and holding onto as much independence as possible for as long as possible. That's when thing like muscle mass, strength, muscle power, general mobility, and cardiovascular health are going to become very very important to you.
But in your prime, unless someone is paying you hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to be a specialist, you really kind of owe it to yourself to be as physically well rounded and capable as possible. You can't predict the day that needing to be physically prepared will arrive, and you can't predict what sorts of physical capacities will be required of you on that day, but trust me, one day it will arrive. And if you're a locked and loaded hybrid athlete that day may be a relatively innocuous one for you. But if you aren't, well, then all bets are off man. It may not be a good day for you. Personally, I prefer to be prepared for whatever challenges life can possibly throw my way.
And this also ends up being a long term investment for my future self. Not only am I potentially - fingers crossed and someone please knock on wood when I write this - adding years to my life, but I'm also adding life to those years. The longer you can keep your joints strong and supple with adequate muscle power and strength to support them, and all of it powered by a strong and healthy cardiovascular system, then the longer you will be able to remain fully functional and independent even well into old age. My grandfather grew up on a farm. Later he became a plumber, and then started farming his land on a small scale again after he retired. A lifetime of physical activity. He died a few years ago just shy of his 99th birthday and for about 97 and a half years he didn't need help from anybody. That's pretty damn impressive if you ask me! And I think the hybrid athlete mindset is not only the best way of maximizing your own odds of achieving this and setting yourself up for this independent future, but it's also the best way to ensure that you are always prepared to tackle any challenge life throws your way in the present.
So there you have it! A case for the hybrid athlete. What do you guys think? Is it the truth? Or am I just blowing smoke up my own HYBRID ass? Let me know what you think in the YouTube comments!
But I hope you enjoyed this one and, more importantly, I hope that you are able to take away some useful information here to use for yourself moving forward. Regardless of whether you agree with the core concept or not, if it makes you do a deep dive about how you've been approaching your own fitness then that is a good thing as far as I'm concerned!
If you did enjoy it please feel free to support the production of more free content like this by picking up one of my training programs! The Ultimate Performance Manual is the quintessential program for anyone who wants to become a badass hybrid athlete in the future. Keep training hard and I will catch you guys next time!