ATHLETIC TRAINING | Introduction to Soft and Hard Styles of Training

December 12, 2017 by VAHVA Fitness

Clips of recent athletic training. Also explaining the two major styles of training: hard and soft. 

Although there is no clear distinctive line between the soft and hard styles of training, there are training styles that are more soft (internal) and training styles that are more hard (external). 

Many women start with soft training like yoga and get great results with it, whereas most men focus on heavy lifting which is obviously a hard style of training.

You should obviously do what you want to do but don't be restricted by just one style of training. Excess focus on one way won't produce the best results and won't help you to become a complete athlete.

Here we have explained the differences between these two types of training and how to combine them into one so you will get the benefits of both.

If you want to reach your full potential in fitness you need to learn how to integrate both hard and soft styles of training.

Soft Style of Training

yoga movement judo push up hindu push up aztec push up
  • Focus inwards on your body, performance is secondary.
  • Great for health, structural balance, posture and strengthening the body.
  • EXAMPLES: Yoga, mobility training, movement training, rehabilitative training, pilates etc.

The purpose of soft training is to primarily focus on the body: to increase the health, well-being and longevity of your body.

Yoga is the perfect example of a soft style of training although there are yoga styles that can be more intense and hard.

Movement training in general is a soft approach to fitness, especially flow. The goal is not an external purpose or an achievement, but the goal is to just move and express yourself.

All the physical benefits such as loosening up the body, developing coordination and building strength & mobility are great side products of movement training. 

Mobility training is a lot more direct approach, but the focus is also on the body.

The purpose of mobility training is to open up the body and strengthen the weak links so you can become a healthier human being with a better posture and less chance of injury.

Mobility training will translate into better performance, but the primary purpose of mobility training isn't performance but health.

Soft training is the best way to increase your longevity, improve your posture and make you bulletproof to injuries. If you don't do it, you will be more fragile, less coordinated and physically weaker. 

Hard Style of Training

hang power cleans crossfit
  • Focus outwards on a specific purpose like competition or achievement.
  • Great for skills, power and performance.
  • Athletic training, stability training, weightlifting, calisthenics, CrossFit etc.

Hard training makes you good at any skill or task you set your mind to. The purpose is to become good at something you do with your body.

CrossFit is a perfect example of hard training where the primary goal is to become good at the skills of CrossFit. The biggest problem with CrossFit is that they are so focused on the numbers that they often do it at the expense of the body.

The purpose of athletic training and stability training is to increase your performance against other human beings (or a difficult environment). There is no reason to get insanely strong and athletic other than to be stronger than someone else.

Whether you know it or not, most calisthenics practitioners compete with each other on who is the best at the skills of calisthenics. Otherwise they wouldn't be so obsessed with skills which have no other practical use. 

Movement training has also become partly a hard style of training where people compete with each other with their handstand forms, flows, squat depth and many other skills that have become part of "the movement culture".

Hard training will make you better at anything you focus on. If you focus on pull ups, you will develop the skill of being good at pull ups. What most people think is strength is actually a skill and not real strength.

The focus in hard training is set outwards and there is nothing wrong with competing with other people as long as you don't do it at the expense of the body (lack of soft approach).

Many powerlifters are obsessed with their lifts and do anything to improve their lift ratios which is why they often have hurt shoulders, knees and back.

Every joint in their bodies are wrapped, they wear belts and lifting suits to increase their numbers (lifting equipment can increase your lifts by ridiculous numbers, ref: ACSM strength & conditioning textbook link). Powerlifting is thus clearly about numbers and not about developing strength.

This one-dimensional approach is obviously bad for the body but it's also not the best way to get strong because you are constantly impaired and restrained by your weaknesses.

If you want to reach the highest level in fitness, you need to balance the hard with the soft, and vice versa.

Enlightened Approach

yin yang symbol

You will start to see very interesting and amazing results when you combine hard and soft training into one. This is what we have done in Movement 20XX course which combines both styles of training.

However, doing both styles of training is not the best way although it is A LOT better than just doing one style of training alone.

The enlightened, limitless approach to fitness is to do both soft and hard training at the same time regardless of what you do.

That is what our qualitative approach is. You focus on hard training in a soft way and in soft training the hard way.

What this means is that when you do hard training, you don't do it at the expense of the body. When you do soft training, it has a purpose beyond health (functionality).

When you do athletic training, the external purpose is to increase your performance but you do it by focusing internally on the body and quality of your movement like you would do in yoga.

Likewise, with this approach your goal with exercises like squats is not to lift the most amount of weight possible. Your goal is to use the perfect amount of weight which is optimal for strengthening the muscles.

In the beginning, combine both hard and soft styles of training into your workouts for good results. Soft training should be the priority though, because before you can start doing intense training, you need to have built a strong foundation.

People think intense training will produce better results, but that is not the case - it will only work if you are ready for it which rarely is the case. Beginners will get the best results when they focus on slow and controlled strength and mobility training.

Eventually you will learn how to combine both hard and soft training into one and there will be no clear line between the two.

Train hard, stay safe.


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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