Water poloThe 40% Rule

November 2, 2020

In many ways, an athlete’s mental approach to their sport is more important than the physical one. That’s because everything starts from within our own mind. If you want to reach new levels as a competitor, you have to push past mental barriers. And that’s why we at Patriot Aquatics wanted to give you an insightful tool to help you dominate the mental game to help you become the best possible version of yourself.

The message we want to focus on comes from David Goggins – a best-selling author, retired navy seal, ultramarathon runner, and world record holder (4,030 pull-ups in 24 hours). Goggins’ refers to it as the ‘40% Rule’.


A basic breakdown of the ‘40% Rule’ is as follows: Your mind can either work for you or against you. Your brain has a “factory setting” within it that wants you to stay comfortable and protect you from pain and suffering. It’s a protective instinct within us. Because of that, your brain sets up a mental barrier to stop you from ever reaching your full potential. In Goggins’ opinion, that mental barrier falls around 40% for just about everybody. This is why Goggins also says, “Most people quit around 40%.”

Goggins also teaches that once you feel like you’ve hit that mental wall, your brain will start convincing the rest of your body that you are exhausted and should rest. Even though you’ve only used up 40% of your mind’s mental capacity. Think about that… 40% is less than half of your potential! There’s still another 60% you can begin to tap into.

Using some of that extra 60% means pushing past that mental barrier. It means you keep going after you can feel yourself against that mental barrier and your body starts telling you to rest. And that can feel very difficult when you’re in that moment. That’s why most people will just stop. But if your willpower is tougher than your circumstances, you can push past it. It’s difficult but possible.


In water polo practice, that might mean swimming even harder for the entire swim set. Or holding yourself a little bit higher in the water during leg sets. In games, it means you give 100% every second the coach puts you in the game.

By pushing past it, you put yourself through more discomfort. And your brain will realize that it needs to adapt. So it will begin adapting, and start moving that mental barrier backward and you’ll begin unlocking new levels for yourself to reach as a competitor.

If you consistently push past that mental barrier in practices and competition, you’ll begin to look like a completely different athlete, physically. And your mind will be better conditioned to take on difficult tasks, mentally. Like everything else, these results won’t happen all at once. But if you keep working at it for weeks and months… you will see the results. And so will your coaches.

Remember that your mind can work for, or against you. It can either keep you from reaching your full potential or help you reach it. Which would you prefer?

We invite every person within our club to begin thinking about the 40% rule and to start pushing past the barriers within themselves. Athletes, coaches, and parents. We know that this important idea can be applied in areas that go so much further than the pool and we can all be better off because of it.

We’ve attached some videos and links about David Goggins and his 40% rule if you’d like a starting point to learn more about it. Do you have any thoughts on it? Let us know!


Image courtesy of Pixabay.



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