Welcome to the second decade of the new millennia. One can be “select,” “elite,” or “best of the best” by finding a small enough sport in a small enough pond that requires club fees and the purchase of a t-shirt.
I have lived by a simple formula for a long time:
What is an elite athlete?
1. The athlete no longer is on a steep learning curve. The athlete, in other words, is no longer improving in quantum leaps from year to year, or season to season. Lifts, for example, no longer double over two years. Improvement is slow.
2. The athlete has a year-round approach to one sport.
3. The athlete uses some form of intense training camp or focused training of some kind each year.
4. The athlete uses high levels of strength training before the competitive periods. Save for lifters, as strength levels go down, performance should improve.
5. The athlete has made a personal choice to be elite.
Any strength & power related training topic (powerlifting, strongman, olympic lifts, etc)
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Another good read: http://danjohn.net/2010/12/what-is-elite/