Written by Kevin Cann
I was fortunate enough today to have a talk with a legend of the sport. I shared some stuff with our team, but I want to get it all down on paper and I think all of the people reading this will benefit from the information.
Vince Anello was the first person under 200lbs to deadlift 800lbs. He deadlifted 820lbs at 198lbs bodyweight in 1982. The timeframe here was important. There wasn’t a lot of information out there for the sport at the time, so these guys had to figure it out. He told me that they used phonebooks for boards on the bench!
The majority of coaches and athletes involved in powerlifting, have been involved in this sport for less than 5 years. The lessons that these legends can teach has got lost in an egocentric world filled with 20 somethings that think they know everything.
The conversation started with Mr. Anello telling me that every program works. However, it only works if the mental approach of the lifter is on point. He told me that we need to be open minded about all aspects of strength training as we don’t know anything.
Right there I was sold. This is literally something that I say all of the time. I use the phrase of “embrace uncertainty.” He even said that we need to be comfortable with uncertainty. The conversation only got better from here.
He went on to explain the process of training. He said to allow the process to happen and don’t force it. He said to let go and let guide and the movement patterns and the process will take care of itself. This has literally been my coaching philosophy since October. Sounds a lot like self-organizing to me.
The internet jumped on me when I showed week 1 of a program and how bare it looks. They called me lazy and a shitty coach. They told me that I am ripping people off for this coaching as well.
I give them a starting point, we observe how things are working, and we adjust as we see fit. The lifter fills in all of the other blank spaces in the program. They decide the sets based off feel and the accessories based off their identification of their needs and what they like to do. I supervise this process and teach them when there are teachable moments. This is the process building itself. We do this together as a team. We help each other and the decisions are made with both me and the lifter.
In light of all of the criticism I have received for my coaching it was nice to hear this from him. I care more about the opinion of someone that has been in this sport as long as he has and someone that has achieved so much. I have a podcast with Dr. Loeneke that will be out next week that explains a lot of the science behind the reasoning for us lifting heavy more often instead of higher volumes.
Lots of these legends of the sport trained each lift one day per week. Vince Anello was no different. They got after it each week and basically maxed out for the reps of that given day. Seems most started with 5 reps and worked up to singles (from what I could find). They found exercises that attacked weaknesses and lifted them heavy.
I theorize that volume became more popular in strength training as our ability to track it became more pronounced. The 70s seems to be when the hypertrophy contributes to strength training paradigm shifted without substantial evidence. During this time Russian training systems were all of the rage, and shortly after the computer came onto the scene. As the computer became more common in households, more coaches began to have access to Excel. We can’t track conversations objectively, but we can track many of the external load data points in this sport. Technology was the death of intuitive coaching. I think it led to many coaches disregarding the words of past legends as well because it did not fit their limited knowledge base. I can say this because it was me a couple years ago.
This is a sport without role models. Raw lifting blew up onto the scene and the giants of the past were forgotten. I feel if we learned more about where the sport started and where it came from there would be less negative commentary on the internet about different training styles. This is a different conversation and I am going to save myself the frustration.
He made a very interesting comment that really resonated with me. He said not to analyze your lifts. That analyzing deters from performance. This was really amazing to me. I spoke about perfectionism and how it deters from performance on the Clinical Athlete podcast, episode 33. We discuss a current paper on the topic. He figured this out 20 years before there was even research on the subject matter.
We also discussed the mental aspects of training. I am going to save the specifics for our group, but he truly believes the mental aspects are the most important aspects to train. You can’t handle big weights physically if you are not mentally prepared. This is something we are really going to focus on as a group, no matter how weird people think that it is.
I am very excited to start utilizing some of this mental training that he suggested. I think it will pay huge dividends for the entire group. We have had some great conversations about the mental side of training as a group lately and this has already payed dividends.
It also brings us closer as a group and helps to drive further progress. I encourage everyone to be open minded and skeptical of everything. Just as Mr. Anello said, we don’t know anything. Once I adopted this attitude our group started to have more fun and we have seen an explosion of totals.