How PPS is Going to Get Stronger in Quarantine

Written by: Kevin Cann


We sure as shit are in the middle of a global incident that will be remembered forever.  The only historical events that I can compare this to are 9/11 and the marathon bombings.  These are all moments in time that remind us that we are mere specs in a large universe and the universe is unforgiving.


In Massachusetts, where PPS resides, there have been mandates put into place that are closing all gyms as well as theaters, and places of worship.  Because I have this forum, I am going to give a little bit of my opinion on this.  Mainly because it is frustrating, and I want to say it out loud.


The disease does not seem to be very transmissible beyond coughing or sneezing while within 6 feet of someone.  There may be some evidence that we can get it from touching objects that were coughed or sneezed on and then touching our faces.  However, this is not the primary way that the virus is spread.  You cannot get it from sweat.


In 3 months there have been approximately 110,000 cases worldwide with around 4,000 deaths.  This is far lower than auto-mobile accidents over that period of time.  Also, far more cases are out there than what was reported because many people experience mild symptoms to no symptoms at all.


Working backwards from the death rate of .5% it seems as if as many as 2 million people may have been infected worldwide.  Again, most not even knowing it.  This would increase the rate of new cases a day to 10,000 or more.


The death toll seems to be dropping as it spreads globally.  The disease does not seem very transmissible without opportunity.  That opportunity comes in the form of a cruise ship, a 40,000 person potluck dinner, a church in Italy, and a meeting at Biogen.  Avoiding these large gatherings was an absolute must by our government.


The government banned large gatherings (started at over 250, then 25, now 10), disallowed food and beverage to be consumed in restaurants, cancelled all sporting events, sent college students home, and the majority of the American workforce that still has jobs is working from home.


Let’s say this cuts the infection rate down to 5% of Americans (I am making up this number).  Does forcing gym and church closings really drop this number anymore if they are abiding by social distancing and hygiene mandates?  Probably not at all.  Instead it removes places where people find hope, and comfort, and throws a lot of people in unemployment lines.


You can’t just say we expect x% of people to get infected and y% will need beds in hospitals.  You can’t base this off of data from other countries either.  This is the complexity of biology and human life; it can’t be simplified into a linear regression.  These predictions are always incorrect.


You can’t compare us to Italy because the initial conditions are different.  This changes the outcome of the predicted models.  I am no expert on the spread of disease, but this is just math.  I feel the government needs more advanced physicists in office.


This does not mean that you do not take in information from other countries.  This also does not mean that you just throw caution to the wind and do whatever you want.  I agree with the cancelling of large events, closing of schools, and working from home.  However, there is a point where more is not better, and the cost associated with forcing quarantines like 1918 is unnecessary.


I will stop there and get back to the original point of this article, how we are going to get stronger during this time.  We have some lifters that have home gym setups that have been nice enough to offer for some lifters to come over and at least do something.


Everyone will basically get the same 2 day program for now until things seem to be a bit more settled.  We are going to go fucking ham on these 2 days though.  Day 1 we will max out a squat and hit some lighter speed bench and day 2 we will max out a bench and pull.  This is not ideal, but we have to do what we have to do right now.


If we have limited access to actual weight to put on the bar we will add boxes, bands, chains, pauses, and even reps to get the intensity that we are looking for.  Some people have zero access to a gym.  This is obviously not ideal, but we can still get better.


Most powerlifters are unathletic as fuck.  We can learn to be more athletic for a few weeks.  Squat jumps are a good option.  Full depth explode out of the bottom as hard and fast as possible for sets of 3-5.  Short sprint acceleration work might transfer over well to a squat and deadlift.  They teach you how to get going all at once and to keep accelerating.


The motor unit recruitment for this work will be similar to that have heavy lifting a well.  We can at least increase our power, rate of force development, and rate coding in this situation.  The quarantine is for 3 weeks, fits nicely in a wave.  Coincidence?  Maybe.


I am going to take this time to really read up on a few things and try to get answers to some questions I have.  If I can’t be in the gym, I will be home learning.  I will share this knowledge with the group as well.  Knowledge is power (that pun worked great).

It is Not the Volume: It is Your Focus and Intent


Written by: Kevin Cann


I think powerlifting is in this fad of low RPEs and high volumes.  Many lifters are doing well with programs like this, but I would imagine just as many are not.  I think some of this is driven by the inexperience of lifters and coaches.


There is not a single lifter or coach that I have talked to, that has been around for a long time, that thinks this is the best way to train for longevity in the sport.  However, if a coach programs a massive stimulus in volume, it almost guarantees success.


In these cases the coaches are using way more of a stimulus then is necessary.  In this case, more seems like it is better.  Over time the gap between what is necessary to get stronger gets driven upwards.  I would argue that over time, the risk of injuries is higher with these higher volume programs.


Even if the lifter does not get hurt, at some point the volume is impossible to increase.  My lifters have jobs and limited time to get shit done in the gym.  We need to be as effective with our time as possible.


In my opinion there is nothing more practical than taking heavy singles.  You get to practice the actual sport by doing this.  With that said, there is something to be said about total volume.  Practice helps improve technical efficiency for one.


One thing I noticed at the Arnold was that a lot of lifters really hit the brakes before they hit the hole in the squat.  This tells me that the lifters are using weights that are too heavy too often.  Many of these lifters ended up getting red lights for depth.  I have run into this same issue with PPS.


Some of these lifters I know do higher volume programs.  However, they are not increasing the technical efficiency with those higher volumes as the loads seem to be too large for that.  Each training day has a purpose and there is a purpose for each intensity zone being utilized in a training program.


With that said, volume is important to a certain extent.  We need to execute enough reps in each intensity zone to develop the necessary skills to improve upon in the sport.  This fact is not lost on me.


However, the lifter needs to bring a specific attitude to the gym to develop all of these qualities.  Going through the motions with lighter weights is not going to make anyone better.  Every repetition in training is an opportunity to get better.


The lifter needs to bring focus and intent to every repetition.  If we are trying to improve upon the technical inefficiency I mentioned above, the lifter should focus on attacking the hole of the squat with good technique on every repetition.


If the coach is looking to improve upon this technical efficiency the correct loads and volumes need to be utilized.  Using weights where the lifter slows down is not helping to improve upon this skill.  Start with lighter weights and then utilize progressive overload with technical efficiency.


As the lifter shows competency with the skill under lighter loads, gradually increase them over time.  For every lifter this will be different.  For example, maybe we start at 60% of 1RM because that is appropriate for a given lifter.  After a week or 2 (or longer if needed), maybe we go up to 65% of 1RM.


Over the next few blocks we can drive this number up to 80%, then 85%, and eventually take some singles at 90%.  I did this with one PPS lifter who was moving too slow.  We also utilized bands on the max effort lifts.  Everything we were doing I wanted to be focused on doing faster.


The lifter needs to move the weight as fast as possible, while maintaining control, in each lift for this to work.  Just going through the motions will not yield the results that we are looking for.  All too often lifters will see 80% and move it with just enough effort to execute the lift.  You can’t get better at moving 100% by moving at 80%.  You need to give your all on every single repetition as if it were a max effort attempt.


When a lifter does this the coach can adjust the loads appropriately.  As weights get heavier, reps will get slower, and as they get lighter, they will get faster.  However, effort by the lifter remains the same.  This makes it much easier for the coach to adjust training in a way that they would like to get the desired results.


Focus and intent are extremely important to learning a skill, no matter what the skill.  This can include playing an instrument, learning a language, or an athletic skill.  Focus and intent are a major player in this, but we very rarely focus on it.  My guess is because we can’t measure it.


The coach can’t just assume that the volumes and intensities are the best choice.  Each needs to do their job in the relationship.  The coach needs to analyze strengths and weaknesses and observe the lifters.  The lifters need to be accountable for their actions.  This includes sleep, nutrition, and stress management.  It also includes the focus and intent that they bring into training.

A Thought Process vs a Program


Written by: Kevin Cann


John Flagg actually said this to me a couple of weeks ago.  He said that certain coaches give you a thought process.  Some of these coaches would include Louie Simmons, Boris Sheiko, and Mike T.  I thought this was a very good point and really thought about it for a minute.  PPS is also a thought process.


All of these coaches’ thought processes are guided by general principles.  Louie utilizes the max effort, dynamic effort, and repetition effort methods.  Louie’s thought process is that heavy singles increase absolute strength and dynamic effort work increases explosiveness.  A lifter must generate enough power to move the bar fast enough through their sticking points.  Bands and Chains play a role here as well.


Sheiko’s thought process is guided by Verkoshansky’s Principle of Dynamic Organization.  This principle states that the body will always be looking for a more efficient way to complete a task.  Sheiko utilizes variations to guide this organization.  This is why all variations are done in the competition stances and grips.  As the lifter gets more efficient, they will lift more.


I am not as familiar with Mike T’s stuff, just what I have heard on his podcast and his articles that I have read.  I see a little of both of the above in his stuff.  He allows a program to emerge, hence emerging strategies, based off of how the individual is responding to it.  This would be the principle of self-organization.  This is very similar to Verkoshansky’s principle.  In fact, it kind of builds off it and just includes more pieces of the whole person.


Many coaches will attempt to mimic the ones above and for good reason.  Those coaches have had some of the greatest success in the sport.  They are 3 coaches that I definitely look up to and hope to achieve a similar level of success as they have in time.


They all have been doing this a very long time and I am sure they have learned a thing or 2 along the way.  As a coach that utilizes more of a thought process in training it can be tough at times.  I have only been doing this for 5 years.  I fuck up sometimes.  I fuck up more often than what even my lifters realize.  But I learn from those mistakes and I like to think I am getting better.


Here is an example.  Jess Ward is prepping for the Arnold Pro-Am.  She had a hip thing going on so we could only do close stance squats since Nationals and conventional deadlifts.  About 4 weeks out she felt 100% in her hip.


During this time she had hit close to her best squat in a close stance, but her deadlift was blowing up.  She pulled 400lbs, her best ever meet pull, from a deficit in the middle of the week.  Instead of just riding the wave, I got too cute.  I kept thinking we needed to get some wider stance stuff into training.  I took out conventional and put in some sumo for the heavier work.


Her sumo technique looked great, and the weights were moving well.  Watching it you would think that everything was going well.  However, I feel this lost her some momentum.  Close stance squats don’t build your squats, they build your pull.  I assumed this would be enough to maintain what we had developed, and the sumo would spark something more.


In hindsight I should have kept the conventional in until it got stuck, or until the meet was over.  I would have added bands to the deficit and pushed it.  I should have paid more attention to how things were playing out.  That is my bad.  I am lucky enough that Jess trains her fucking ass off and is still looking to hit around a 10kg total PR at the Arnold.


Lifters need to trust me as a coach.  I will make mistakes.  They got to trust me that I will learn from them and continue to develop a thought process that gives us an advantage over everyone.  If we have a strong relationship and we are flexible and adaptable to the ever changing training needs, we can accomplish a lot.  It is why we have lifters at the Arnold every year, but we can do better.


Louie Simmons is constantly learning and trying things out.  I can say confidently that I believe Mike T does the same thing.  I know Sheiko was coaching his in person lifters on a day to day basis.  Meaning he wrote the day’s training that day.


I heard a story of one of his lifters not hitting depth at 80%.  He made this lifter keep doing it until he did right.  He ended up doing something like 20 sets at 80%.  This was far more than was scheduled for the day.  I am sure there were adjustments made to the rest of the week.


When lifters and coaches try to mimic these coaches they can run into a lot of problems.  They think they are getting a program structure to follow.  You just follow the structure and you are on your way to coaching world level athletes.


Unfortunately, this is not true.  I learned this lesson the hard way.  I followed the structure that Sheiko painted for me.  This worked very well, but there were definite limits.  Following any 3 of the above is a great start and will yield some positive results.  However, if you want to be on their level you need to develop your own process.  I don’t want to be on their level.  I want to exceed their level.  I am willing to make mistakes for as long as it takes to develop a thought process that yields the greatest amounts of success.


The beauty of their programs lies in their heads.  I watched a video of Louie coaching up Stefi Cohen.  You can see the thought process in action.  He is literally thinking and analyzing the whole time and then he puts her in positions where she struggles to even complete reps.  She pulls 550lbs but struggled to hit 225lbs on a deadlift variation he gave her.  His ability to identify a weakness within minutes of meeting her was amazing to watch.


Many options out there for coaching are just programs.  They are an algorithm built into an Excel spreadsheet.  There is not much of a thought process here.  Now, I am not trying to shit on coaches and lifters that do this.  There are many successful lifters and coaches that utilize these methods.  Many are more successful than me, so take this for what it is worth.


These programs just manipulate the training variables that we can measure.  There is not a thought process here.  In a documentary Bill Belichek actually discussed the increase of data in sports.  He said he got on the plane after a loss and saw all of the coaches buried in their computers.  He said “Guys, we didn’t lose because of something in those computers.  We lost because we couldn’t tackle.”


I know that is about football, but it is relevant.  When something does not go as planned in powerlifting, these coaches will stare at their charts and graphs and add more volume or something.  This may work, but in many cases it doesn’t.


The coach needs to watch and know their athletes.  The coach needs to be willing to try things.  A big part of coaching is holding the lifter accountable.  They need to take care of business on their end with sleep, recovery, nutrition, and mindset.  This is not just mindset in the gym, but out of the gym as well.


Belichek sends in a series of plays to the defense.  However, the players have the ability to change the play based off of what they see.  He gives them that ability.  This leads to them studying film harder during the week and discussing plans of attack with each other constantly.


He helps guiding the process of them making good decisions on the field on Sundays.  He then holds them, as well as himself, accountable for the outcomes.  Learn from your mistakes and get better.  We have seen this play out over 20 years.  The Pats may look shitty in September, only to be there holding the trophy at the end of the season.  Belichek coaches by a thought process.


I feel like I am rambling on here so I will cut it off.  I am a big believer in finding a coach with a thought process and not a program as you will learn far more.  You will also have a lot more fun.  It is fun to try things and buy into a team and coach so much that you are willing to do anything to try to gain an edge.

Charlie Francis: The High/Low Method


Written by: Kevin Cann


I have been coaching for over 15 years now.  I did not get into powerlifting until about 5 years ago.  The majority of my coaching career was coaching high school and college aged athletes.  Early on in my career I was introduced to Charlie Francis’ stuff.


His coaching information really resonated with me.  It was so simple, but so complex at the same time.  He understood that the athlete’s needed more than a program to reach the highest levels.  He learned how to do massage himself, he would go into their apartments and check their cabinets for food.


I remember reading one story where he did this and saw one of the sprinters only had boxes of cereal. Francis then went out and bought food for this athlete.  Francis knew how important nutrition was for recovery and performance.  He was a big proponent of regenerative methods too.  He knew sleep was important and massage was a huge part of his recovery methods.


He had access to the Eastern Bloc coaches that others did not have access to at this time.  I am not even sure where that connection came from.  Francis was a national level sprinter and coached some of the best sprinters on the planet at this time.  The most famous/infamous one being Ben Johnson.


The things that I really liked about Francis were, for one, his focus on fundamentals.  Technique mattered and it was practiced frequently.  Francis also had a focus on the quality of repetitions over the quantity of repetitions.


He would very often watch a sprinter hit a high performance run in training and end the sprinter’s training there.  His reasoning would be that the sprinter had an exceptional individual performance and they were very unlikely to repeat that effort again.  He had a mantra of “Don’t be afraid to walk away.”


Performing at that high of a level is a very strong stimulus to the athlete.  Sometimes more is not better as the recovery cost becomes greater.  The sprinter was unlikely to improve upon that performance on that day and anymore could even result in an increased injury risk.


I have read in articles that he would also shut down training days when the athletes just did not look right.  He was very good at walking that line of training hard, but also recovering just as hard.


In an article written by Derek Hanen, who worked closely with Francis, he explains how Francis was able to create training to fit circumstances.  In Canada it is cold, and they are forced indoors for a chunk of the year.  During this time his sprinters would work on their acceleration.  This is the short in the short to long sprint training he is famous for.  In this same article the author explains that he has seen Francis use long to short with some individuals because it worked better for them.  He was always willing to find what works for each athlete.


I haven’t thought about Charlie Francis in years.  Once I got into powerlifting, I was constantly looking at powerlifting specific stuff.  I heard his name mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and a light bulb went off.  I am literally applying a similar model with my lifters.


We start the week with high intensity singles and lighter rep work is performed later in the week to work on technique and allow recovery. I want these days to register lower than an RPE 8.   If an athlete seems like they need more recovery, we replace the max effort work with sets and reps.


Francis would avoid the middle zones of intensity as they do not really make you faster and they come with a higher recovery cost than what they are worth.  This is why he would send sprinters home instead of just lowering the intensity for the day.  I choose to lower the intensity instead on these days.


If a lifter’s schedule leads to them needing to cram a day 4 later in the week, they are instructed to just skip that day.  That is our walking away.  Just because it is on the paper doesn’t mean we follow it blindly.  I want the lifter recovered enough to hit those high intensity days.


If they are struggling to find time to get a training day in it most likely means they have increased stress outside of the gym.  This means less stress in the gym is probably most important.


I feel the middle ranges in powerlifting have a place, but not as the most important part of training.  The majority of programs out there focus primarily on the middle zones.  Coaches just throw a ton of volume in there to get enough of a stimulus to drive adaptation.


This often leads to lifters feeling rundown or getting injured.  In my experiences the lifter does not develop the confidence under heavier weights to truly exceed in this sport.  You can’t develop explosiveness and strength for 100% efforts while only training at 75%.


People get stronger while utilizing those middle intensities, so I am not ready to throw them out completely.  It is why I utilize them in place of max effort lifts.  On these days I view them as the next best thing.  They are heavy enough weights to generate adequate force to help the lifter get better.  This is as long as they are putting their max effort into each repetition.  With that said, the middle zones make up a very miniscule amount of our actual volumes.


What is pretty crazy is, even though I have not thought about Charlie Francis in years, what I learned from his stuff had stuck with me and I ended up finding myself using a similar approach as I did when I was a younger coach of field and court athletes.  The information I learned definitely stuck with me.


Francis wanted attempts on the high intensity days to be 95-100% of the sprinter’s capabilities.  He used very few exercises to achieve this as well.  This is where powerlifting differs from sprinting in my opinion.


Effort is effort.  From a neuromuscular perspective, as long as the athlete is attempting to produce the greatest force necessary, they will develop the ability to produce maximal force.  Changing angles within the lifts can help build up weaknesses as well.  If our weaker angles get stronger, typically our stronger angles get stronger.  While still changing angles we are still squatting, benching, and deadlifting.  Can’t really do that with sprinting.


I think the efforts of the Francis system is what really piques my interest.  It is definitely inline with what I have seen in the gym.  I am going to go back through and reread those books that I read over 10 years ago and see how my newfound perspectives can make sense of the information now.

Managing Fatigue in Powerlifting


Written by: Kevin Cann



As a coach one of our biggest jobs is managing fatigue with lifters.  Fatigue seems to have this very negative perception with lifters and coaches.  Fatigue is not necessarily a bad thing.  We actually probably need it to get stronger.


Powerlifting is a very unique sport in terms of lifter attitude in my experiences.  For a sport that you may hit one to two PRs per year on comp lifts, many lifters complain about the day to day inconsistencies in training numbers very frequently.


I think this has affected how many coaches actually plan their programs.  Trying to be a powerlifting coach is pretty cutthroat.  I do feel lucky to be able to do this as my full-time job.  As one of my lifters put it yesterday, “Your job is pretty cool.”


This competitiveness in the field to be a coach drives decisions a lot of times.  I think many coaches are afraid of losing lifters if they feel they are not performing well consistently.  I know I have had these feelings in the past.


I do feel the coach’s responsibility is to educate the lifter and to help address their expectations.  If a lifter has this attitude, they will not last long in the sport.  Also, a lifter with that type of attitude will suck the life out of a coach.


Let us get back to the topic of this article, fatigue.  Sheiko was amazing at utilizing fatigue to drive progress.  His infamous, squat/bench/squat days would definitely tire you out.  By the time you get to the second round of your squats you are mentally and physically tired.


These training sessions force the lifter to really dig down mentally and physically to complete the session.  There is a ton of positive training pieces here.  Fatigue can be quite an uncertain piece of training.


Sometimes a lifter will be tired and crush a PR, sometimes they will be fresh and have a poor performance, sometimes the taper before a meet works, sometimes it does not.  Fatigue is a very complex topic and it gets even more complex when we look at how it effects performance.


This does not mean it does not exist.  It certainly does and we need to do our best as coaches to know our lifters and to know when to push them and when to pull back.  I went through a period where I pushed everyone and tried to let the weight on the bar dictate lighter days.


This was a great learning experience.  For one, external load is not the only piece that affects recovery.  Internal load also matters.  Westside alternates upper and lower days to ensure enough recovery between training sessions.


The idea is that the lower body muscles get a break while we train the upper body muscles.  This is true for part of the picture.  There is still a larger fatigue piece that effects the system as a whole.  I have seen this referred to as systemic fatigue.


If we come into the gym and just push it hard every day, we will experience some fatigue.  This is true even if we alternate upper and lower.  Westside also breaks it up by max effort and dynamic effort.  The max effort is heavy weights and the dynamic effort is very light weights moved quickly.


Sheiko used a combination of high, medium, and low stress training days throughout his programs.  Sheiko did not structure it the same way as Westside.  He planned it based off of each individual lifter.  Sheiko also wasn’t using very heavy weights, or very light weights.  The program utilized mostly moderate weights for higher frequencies and volumes.


I decided for a period of time that I knew more than these two coaches.  I did lay out rules for each lifter to follow to help them self-organize into these higher, medium, and lower stress training days.  However, this did not work out as planned.


We definitely got stronger.  There are no questions asked about that.  We got really strong, really quick too.  I learned a lot about fatigue during this time.  Fatigue did not really begin to effect performance right away.


There would be days when lifters would not hit the numbers they expected to, but in general progress was moving forward at an incredible rate.  I thought I figured it out.  Lifters just needed to train harder!  As if no lifter ever thought of this before.


Fast forward a few months and we started experiencing a lot more nagging issues than we ever did before. We were just running a simple linear program during this time.  I was witnessing lifters that would go from 5s to 1s hitting PRs almost every week, to hitting some PRs early on and fizzling out as the block continued on. Almost as if they lost endurance to get through a training block.  Much of this fizzling out was probably due to the nagging issues starting to pop up more frequently.


This brought me back to my time with Sheiko.  Training needs to be a balance of high stress days to drive adaptation, medium stress days to maintain strength, and low stress days to aid in recovery.


I am a huge fan of singles.  This is the sport and I truly believe we need to train the sport.  Westside alternates the singles between squats and pulls.  I want to do both with my lifters.  How can I manage to do this?  That was the big question.


Westside spaces out their training days so that they are well recovered to crush a max effort lift.  I do like this idea, but I am also not against having a little fatigue going into those sessions.  However, if we are going to be training this hard in a fatigued state, we need to pay a lot of attention and pull back when it is necessary.  So somehow, we need to be able to monitor fatigue as best we can.


I decided to space out the max effort lifts by 72 hours.  In the research it seems like this is the upper end of the recovery time period from a hard training session.  48 to 72 hours seems like the sweet spot.  We squat on Monday, bench on Tuesday, and pull on Thursday.  This gives the lifter an extra day between the deadlift max effort and the beginning of the next week to ensure we are getting enough rest to perform adequately.


The deadlifts do rotate weekly between max effort and more rep work.  Before deadlifts, my lifters will do some rep work for bench press.  This is usually 48 hours after max effort bench press.  I am usually still a little sore at this point.


This is right at the very beginning of the recovery timetable from the max effort bench press we did on Tuesday.  That means they are most likely executing these bench press reps with some fatigue.


This fatigue makes light weights a little heavier and will really force the lifter to focus on technique.  Usually a variation to work on technique is used here as well.  After this session, they get 4 days of rest before they bench again.  This ensures they are fresh to hit that max effort bench press again.


On Friday or Saturday my lifters will do rep work with the squats and deadlifts.  These are usually very light, maybe around 70% to 75% of 1RM.  However, there will be a lot of sets and reps here.  This is to get the volume in and to work on technique.


This would be a more medium stress training day.  A medium stress training day should be something the lifter can recover from in 24 hours.  This should not take 48 to 72 hours to recover from.  This means if they do this day on Friday, they have 72 hours to recover from this session, and if it is completed on Saturday, they have 48 hours to recover.  This should be enough.


These days at the end of the week are very tough even if they are light.  After maxing out all week, usually with backdowns after, the lifters are pretty tired.  This makes the lighter weights feel heavier and challenges technique even more.


The coach needs to pay attention here.  My lifters write RPEs in next to all completed sets.  I want these day 4 lifts to be around an RPE 7.  The backdowns after the max effort, I want to be between an RPE 7-9.


I keep volumes and intensities very consistent here to help me monitor fatigue.  If the 70% of the max effort lift for a 4×4 is constantly an RPE 8, but all of a sudden with a variation it is an RPE 9, it will catch my attention.  If the day 4 squats and deadlifts are usually around an RPE 7, but they are creeping up to an RPE 8-8.5, it shows we are building some fatigue.  When this happens, I will tend to pull back a little and continue to monitor the RPEs.  Here instead of a 4×4 at 70% for backdowns we may do a 4×3 at the same weight.  On day 4, I can leave it the exact same to see if it improves, or I can scale it back a little.  I do both very frequently.


Our max effort work rotates into rep work at times too.  If I think a lifter needs a break, or we hit a true RPE 10 in an exercise, the following week they will get some sets and reps at around 80% of 1RM.  This is very similar to what Sheiko does.  There will be 4-5 sets of 2-3 reps at 80%.  The percentage is drawn off of the max effort from the previous week, so it is pretty accurate.


The more you get to know a lifter, the more you know when to do these things.  Every other week the deadlifts become sets and reps.  These are usually between 70% to 80% of 1RM and done for 4-5 sets of 3 reps.  Usually no more than doubles at 80% of the previous week’s max effort lift.


On these weeks, the last 2 training days of the week are lighter to moderate.  They should only require 24 hours to recover from.  This gives the lifter a 6 day break from max effort lifts.  This is a nice physical and mental reset.


There are also some weeks where there will be zero max effort lifts.  If a lifter hit all RPE 10s the week before, this is pretty common.  This is a week of all low to medium stress training days.  This is an easy week to recover from.


This turned out to be a lot longer than I had anticipated, but managing fatigue is a major component of a coach’s job.  Fatigue is not something to fear.  Training with fatigue is probably unavoidable because of work and other life stressors.  Mental fatigue can affect performance and for most of us our jobs are mentally fatiguing.  We have some lifters with physical jobs too.  Learning to navigate all of these situations takes experience.