F#*$ Your Accessory Work

Written by: Kevin Cann


In a conversation with John Flagg (might have been on the Clinical Athlete podcast) he had pointed out that my training style is very similar to the training style of many weightlifters.  To be honest I have never thought about that before.


Weightlifting is the yacht club of the strength sports; I don’t want my reputation being destroyed by that getting out there.  This sparked an interest in the sport of weightlifting for me.


I got Quinn Henoch on the podcast to chat programming stuff.  I found this podcast “Weightlifting House” that is very good and definitely not just for weightlifters, and I got some good information on the training of various national teams within the sport.


When I first started working with Jeremy Hartman, he told me to watch this documentary on Pyros Dymas, the famous Greek weightlifter.  I developed a fascination with the Greek weightlifting system here.


Dymas did spend quite a bit of time in the Soviet System before the current day Greek system.  As did the rest of that Greek weightlifting Dream Team.  I know in Russia every kid does gymnastics and does not specialize in a sport until they are a little older.


This is how the Greek system is today as well.  Children are encouraged to play as many sports as possible and specialization does not come until later.  Year 1 of weightlifting seems to be unloaded positions of the clean and jerk and the snatch and GPP stuff like jumps and pull-ups.  This is also similar to the Soviet System.


Year 2, the Greeks only perform 8 exercises.  The front and back squat, the Olympic lifts, and a couple variations of the Olympic lifts. They hit a maximal attempt only 1 time every 2 weeks at this stage.  The majority of the work is done between 80-85% of 1RM.


In the 3rdyear of training the exercises drop down to just 4.  They hit maximal attempts every 4thor 5thweek. During that training block after the acquiring of a new max, they work up to 100% very frequently, sometimes multiple times per day.


The advanced athletes are even required to take it when they know they will miss.  The Greeks see benefits to missing weights.  Every 3rdor 4thweek is a lighter week with a drop in volume and only working up to 85% of 1RM.


Every year they have a transition period that lasts 15-20 days where they are eased back into the handling of maximal attempts.  This fascinates me because their program is only 4 exercises.  There are not variations and there is zero accessory work.


Dymas competed in 4 straight Olympics at a gold medal level in this system.  Part of that long-term success requires you to stay healthy.  I am sure the coach makes day to day decisions in the gym.  In any high level weightlifting gym there is always a coach sitting there a few feet away.


This has really got me thinking over the last year.  How important is variation and how important are accessories?  Time is a constraint and we need to maximize our time in the gym to drive high level performance.


I find variation to be very important.  Many powerlifters played sports growing up, many did not.  I think building up strength at various angles is our way of addressing the chances that the lifter specialized in another sport early in life or did not play sports at all.  Americans get into this sport later in life.


I also find variations to be important for skill development.  There are more efficient ways to lift than others.  Variation allows each lifter to explore those movements and find the ones that work best.  The coach can place constraints on these movements that help guide that process.


All skills and strength follow a non-linear pattern.  When one skill regresses, another better be there to pick it up.  For example, maybe you pull sumo, but you start to see a decline in sumo performance.  If you train conventional hard and make sure you can lift numbers close to your best, you can switch and potentially hit a PR.  We see this at times with PPS.


Variation also gives you a wide skillset to pick from.  Let us say that a lifter gets stuck at the knees with the sumo deadlift because they were out of position off the floor.  This most likely looks very similar to a conventional deadlift for the back.  If the lifter has that skill with a conventional, they have a stronger chance of locking out that weight.


I choose to use many different exercises in my training than just a few for those reasons.  I could go on with that as well, but you guys get the point.  As for accessories (think bodybuilding type work) I have always been skeptical.


It just does not make sense to me that a 50lbs chest fly is going to help you bench 400lbs.  I get the theory a bigger muscle has more potential, blah blah blah.  Your body adapts to the stressors placed upon it.  Muscle growth will occur from training the lifts, more is not necessary.


I have used this argument in the past, that accessories help to increase load tolerance at joints and may help to reduce injury risk.  This theory is also nice, but just not true.  Fact is, we don’t know shit about what causes injuries.


Tendons and ligaments don’t respond better to light weights and higher reps to help protect you from heavier weights.  I think we may believe this stuff because accessories help to control loads.  Lifters tend to “leave room” in the program for the accessories.


Increasing performance and reducing injury risk is a contradictory statement.  You need to do more to perform at a higher level.  Doing more increases injury risk.  As a coach we need to take the information that we have and make day to day decisions based off of that information.  Basically, don’t train like an asshole.


As a coach we need to educate each lifter to understand what pain is and what it isn’t, and we need to create an environment that allows them to learn those lessons in the gym as well. Through education and smart training we can build resilient lifters.


Over time we give them the tools to navigate painful situations and to keep training. Self-efficacy decreases disability. Self-efficacy also increases strength through developing the skill of training.  Making good decisions that allows the lifter to get the most out of each training day.


Over time we get more high quality training days (doing more), and less missed training days (injury risk), but that is all that we can do.  We don’t understand enough about injuries to say that we should spend time with accessories as they are “protective.”  Shit will happen at some point.  Lifters should expect it, not fear it, and be equipped to deal with it.


Going into Nationals, we are dumping all accessories out of the program.  We are going to spend time doing the things that we know will make us stronger. I like how the Greeks setup training. We aren’t going to just do singles as grinding out a rep in powerlifting might take around 10 seconds.  We need to be prepared for that.


However, we train heavy every single day in the gym.  We will continue to do that.  That is the sport.  This just requires the coach and the lifter to pay attention as training becomes a lot more than numbers on a spreadsheet.  This is the new standard.


Your Outcomes Are on You


Written By Kevin Cann



We all know this scene. We are training hard, but just not seeing the increase in our numbers like we expected.  In fact, our numbers might be dipping a little bit.  Perhaps we have a competition approaching, or came and went, and our performance was not what we wanted.


The first thing that the athlete wants to do is to change the program.  Their first thought is that this program has stopped working for them and they need something else.  Maybe they are working with a coach that listens and decides to completely change things up.


This is a sign of immaturity and inexperience on both the coach and the athlete.  I know, because I have been that coach and I have been that athlete.  For one, both the coach and athlete needs to understand that dips in performance are part of the process.


100% of every person that takes up the sport of powerlifting will see dips in performance along the way. The overall trend over the bigger picture will be up, but there will be some valleys along the way.


One of the PPS lifters sent me this analogy of a woman walking a dog in the park.  The woman is walking in a straight line, this is the long-term trends of strength training.  The dog was all over the place.  The dog was going side to side, sitting down at times, turning around, you get the picture.


The dog in this scenario is the day to day, week to week, and month to month fluctuations.  Both the woman and the dog get to the same place at the end of the walk.  The woman in this scenario is a good metaphor for the coach.


The coach leads the lifter along this path but allows for those fluctuations that are inevitably going to happen.  I have written and spoke about complex theory and the ebbs and flows of all complex systems.


The human is an open complex system.  These ebbs and flows are completely unavoidable.  A dip in performance is not a reason to change anything, or to panic. This is just how things go.  Again, it is 100% inevitable.  It happens to 100% of everyone that competes in this sport.


I used to be so amazed at Sheiko’s lack of reaction to me having some down times in training.  He would always say “Just not today.”  He didn’t change what he was doing with me and didn’t react any more than that.


This really did not click with me until more recently.  When I was seeing a dip in performance for a couple of weeks I would intervene and change some things up.  This would get progress moving up again.  Going into the meets in April we had some huge total PRs across the board.


A lot of these total PRs were over 30kg, and some were 50kg and more.  There were very few under 15kg.  For example, one lifter put 35kg on his total in 4 months, and 3 months later he is looking at a smaller 5kg total PR.


I had another lifter put 37.5kg on his total from Regionals last year to April of this year, and now he is also looking at a small 5kg total PR.  42.5kg over the course of the year on the total is very good, it just so happened the majority of those numbers were front loaded in the last 12 months.


These situations do not require the coach or the athlete to change anything up.  In fact, changing them up yielded bigger success earlier on, but everything balances out in the end.  Intervening will mean that there will be unforeseen consequences later on. We can’t just continue to put 35kg on our totals every few months.  It just does not work that way.


Things have been going well in the bigger picture.  Of course we will make some adjustments with exercise selection to work on a few things, perhaps frequencies to get some extra work, but nothing major needs to be adjusted.


When lifters and coaches drastically change things under these circumstances it is a missed opportunity. It is a missed opportunity to learn to embrace the downs the same way as you embrace the ups.


It is easy to get after it and hit PRs when confidence is high, it is much more difficult to keep the effort high when motivation is low, and performance is down.  This teaches the lifter discipline.  It also forces them to learn to love other aspects of the sport besides the weight on the bar.


If a lifter only cares about weight on the bar they will not last very long in this sport.  This is due to the inevitable decreases in performance. This will peak frustration and eventually the frustration will win.


All too often these lifters jump from coach to coach and program to program.  This is going to lead to inevitable failure as well.  It is not the coach’s fault or the program’s fault.  The answer to the “problem” lies within the lifter.


The lifter needs to acknowledge and accept that there will be decreases in performance along the way. The lifter needs to look inside themselves and understand that they need to keep working hard, and this is an opportunity to work on their mental game for the sport.


The lifter needs to learn to love the downs as much as the ups.  This will allow the effort to stay high, and for long-term success to occur. Learning to enjoy training beyond the weight on the bar allows the lifter to have fun, and having fun keeps them training and brings PRs.


Those periods of training hard when things do not seem to be going well train a work ethic that will lead to greater long-term success as well.  Drastically changing things up does not allow for this learning and maturation process of the lifter to occur.  Long term trends of the lifter will probably be the same no matter what program they run or what coach they hire if they learn to enjoy training, work hard, and make good decisions.

Why Do Reps Even Matter?

Written by: Kevin Cann


This is a question I have been asking myself a bit lately.  This article is just going to be some thoughts, an inside to my thinking process if you will.


My guess is that this started around the 1970s when there was this obsession about the Russian’s training secrets.  This was the birth of our periodization models here in America.  These periodization models broke training up into specific phases.


These phases tend to be a preparatory phase, a competitive phase, and a transition phase.  The preparatory phase recommendations are for lots of non-specific high repetition work.  In some sources they recommend around 12 to 20 reps.  The competition cycle would be more specific work and between 2 to 8 reps, and the transition phase would be time off after competition.  Perhaps the lifter does some different activities here.


Over time this got adapted more.  There became hypertrophy, strength, and power phases.  Even those these phases had different names it was the same exact model repackaged in a different way.


So, back to my original question, “Why do reps matter?”  The idea between higher rep sets is to increase the size of the muscle within the lifter.  Theoretically a larger muscle has the ability to lift more weight.  When we look into the literature this narrative just does not hold true.


Muscle mass can be obtained from various loading schemes.  However, strength tends to be higher in the groups lifting heavier. This makes sense as the heavier loads are more specific to the sport.


There is some correlation to larger muscles moving more weight, and if you are a coach or lifter that performs high rep sets for this, and you enjoy doing them, by all means keep doing it.  I am just not convinced by the available evidence that this is worth the time, which is also a constraint on lifters, in the gym.  There is a Boston’s Strongcast episode with researcher, Dr. Loenneke, that discusses these topics in further details.


If we analyze the sport of powerlifting this may help to give us our answers.  It is a sport where the lifter takes 3 attempts of a single repetition of the squat, bench press, and deadlift.  Each attempt gets heavier from the first attempt to the third attempt of each lift.


The third attempt should be a maximal lift for the lifter.  A maximal lift may take anywhere from a couple seconds, and I have seen upwards of 11 seconds.  Looking at this information, I would say that reps matter up to the maximal amount of time the lifter will be lifting a maximal attempt for.  For the information I have, 11 seconds (that was on a deadlift, squat was 8 seconds, and bench was a little less than squat).


This is the equivalent to a set of 3 repetitions.  A hard set of 3 reps is probably taking a bit longer as well.  The research has shown that to get stronger, you need to lift larger loads.  Well, what is a larger load?  The research suggests that loads greater than 85% of 1RM are ideal.


Research also suggests that the internal loads, not the external loads, are the drivers of physiological adaptation.  The most common way to measure internal loads is with RPE.  From practical experience I have found that an RPE 8+ is pretty sufficient for strength increases.


The closer to maximal we get the better here.  My guess is it is due to psychological factors.  The heavier weights peak arousal from the lifter.  This forces them to handle their emotions.  As Keith Davids says, “Training should have consequences.”  There are a large number of lifters that undershoot this RPE, so I make our hard sets a range from 8.5 to 9.5.  I would rather them overshoot here than undershoot because of the number of sets we are performing.  Usually starting out at 1 to 2.


The dogmatic argument to this is that you can’t lift heavy every day like that because of overtraining. The idea of overtraining comes from Hans Selye who shocked rats in the 1930s.  This literally has nothing to do with lifters taking a handful of hard sets 3-4 days per week.


Research struggles to induce overtraining symptoms from intensity alone, and they do things that are far removed and much crazier than the real world would.  There needs to be an endurance component to this.  Higher volume programs have an endurance component, perhaps this is where that fear came from?  I do not know.


The argument then is always “But volume matters!  You’re dumb! (insert appropriate emoji here).”  Not all volume is created equal.  Seems there needs to be a higher intensity to it, and a duration of no more than about 11 seconds.


We typically start at 5 repetitions.  My argument is that this gives the lifter greater exposures to new variations to figure it out.  It is hard to load it up for a heavier triple right away.  When I go back and analyze the 5s, I saw some interesting things.


Reps 1 and 2 are definitely not intense enough to be included in the volume that matters. Reps 4 and 5 were mostly effective reps, and rep 3 was sometimes effective.  Keep in mind the majority of the sets are taken at around an RPE 9.5. The days of the 8.5s is usually when the lifter is feeling a little tired and banged up.  This puts that 3rdrep around an 8.


On sets of 3 the first rep is probably outside of the range of intensity to be counted as an effective rep. However, the 3rdrep is important for the timing component of the sport.  We need to learn how to lift for upwards of 11 seconds.


In terms of volume, we need to define how we use volume.  Most use total tonnage and average intensity.  I use “number of hard sets.”  I don’t care whether it was a set of 5 or a set of 1 it gets the same score, 1 volume unit.  The reason for that is with the effective reps for one.


Also, there is a lot of uncertainty with using volume to predict progress.  Tetlock showed in a long running study that experts with more information tended to make worse predictions.  I choose to keep it simple and to give me an idea about how hard the lifter is working.  If progress seems to be stalling, we can add more hard sets.  This is pretty simple.


I think reps are important for practice.  However, we want them to be more deliberate for the sport that we are competing in. A set of 10 at 70% is not practice for powerlifting in my opinion.  The weight is too light to create technique issues, it is too light to create an emotional response, it lasts longer than 11 seconds, and its reasoning is based off of Russian folklore from the 1970s and before.


I view volume as measuring practice time within the sport itself.  Wouldn’t I want to know how many sets the lifter is performing that is actually going to yield benefits?  Wouldn’t this help me see the training process better and give me the necessary information to make the decisions for that lifter to increase progress?  I think so.  Of course, we can’t forget about manipulating other factors such as exercise selection.  That is usually my go to.  You will be surprised at how often adding more volume is not the answer.

Flexible Programming


Written by: Kevin Cann


I have made a drastic change to the way I write my programs.  Ever since I started coaching this sport, I have tracked a lot of data. I tracked tonnage, number of lifts, average intensity, percent of lifts performed as competition, and ACWR (acute chronic work ratio).


Over the last several months I have kind of thrown out this data and focused on coaching.  I still used these Excel spreadsheets to write and deliver the program, but in the gym, I made calls on a day to day basis.


When I made these calls, I was not looking at the sheets and had no idea how these calls would affect any of this stuff.  I expected results to be better, but how much better they were was amazing to me.


This led me to making drastic changes with the way the program is delivered.  If you go back and read my articles and listen to my “flows of consciousness” on the podcast, you could see this coming.


I have discussed how 1RM was a constantly changing number on a day to day basis, how tonnage and volumes are poorly understood, how we monitor fatigue is inaccurate, how we are dynamic systems to learn motor control, and mechanical stress is just a small piece of everything.


I have discussed self-organizing technique.  I use a constraints-led approach where I alter the task to help guide the lifter to self-organize into more efficient technique.  We do this while monitoring estimated 1RM to be sure our changes aren’t leading us down a wrong path.


This has worked very well for my lifters.  It is not like humans are only dynamic systems when we talk about motor control. The human is a dynamic system in its entirety.  We need a dynamic program to be flexible and adapt to the changing needs of that person in front of us.


Learning a lot about chaos theory has helped me understand the complexity of this math.  No matter how much data I collect and use for my decision making, I will always miss the mark at some point.  The Excel spreadsheet will not be more accurate at decision making then I will be.


The reason for this is even if we collect data about mood and perceived effort, the data is not sensitive enough for it to work in an A.I. type program.  The coach with his or her knowledge base and experience is much more able to make the best decisions for the lifter.


I currently am writing the programs with exercise, sets, reps, and my suggested top weights.  None of these are set in stone.  I want to find a way to make the sets and reps more flexible, but there has to be rules.


The lifters have all of the power from here.  The suggested top weights are based off of previous performances.  If the weights feel heavy, they will adjust.  If the top sets are not heavy enough, they will adjust.


They are to do 1-2 hard sets each day as long as everything feels good.  These hard sets are done between RPE 8.5-9.5.  If they can complete all sets there and feel they should, they will. If they want to take less sets or more sets, they can.


This may sound like I am not doing much anymore in terms of coaching and “programming.”  I had a good talk with Dave about this and he made a very mature observation.  He said that the program is probably the least important part of getting stronger. It is about trust in the process and working your ass off.


I don’t disagree with Dave’s statement at all.  The program is probably the least important piece of getting stronger because it is rigid and not changing with the athlete.  Some of the other lifters were concerned that there wasn’t much structure to the program anymore.


They were used to coming in and just doing what was on the sheet until I told them to do something different.  There is still structure to the programs.  In fact, the structure is more complex.


Rules still govern the structure.  There are hard sets where intensity is high, multiple sets for volume, variations to help guide technical efficiency, and most programs are 4 days per week.  These rules are just not set in stone anymore.


We know that none of those above variables are the same for everyone.  At times we pretend we know they are.  Things like “High frequency is superior”, “That program is too low volume to work”, “You can’t lift heavy on a daily basis”, “Technique does or doesn’t matter.”  I could go on forever.


This takes us back to Dave’s statement about the program not being the most important thing.  All of these different programs work for different people.  In fact, many lifters jump from program to program and see success for a time period on each one.


Many will yell about the research out there.  Here is the thing about the research.  The study subjects are recruited, and they perform a new program for a short period of time.  Is it the periodized program leading to those results or the novelty of a new program?


The perception of the lifter is what matters most.  Lifters seek out coaches and programs because they believe that they will work.  This is what I believe drives that progress with a newer program.


This newer program meets the lifter where they are at, at that given time.  Over time the lifter changes and adapts.  The program stops working and they look for something different.


My goal is to create a program that identifies these changing needs and the program is flexible enough to change based off of them.  The lifters will self-organize into volumes, intensities, and frequencies that are best for them at a given moment in time.


This will require a lot of communication between myself and the lifters.  We are still going to track data, but it is going to be much simpler. They will use a mood score entering the gym, RPEs for lifts, and a session score at the end.


This mixed with communication will get processed by my intuition to make the best decisions to help guide each lifter to what works best for them at that given time.  The more I learn and the more experience I get, the better this decision making will become.


I am done looking for answers in an Excel spreadsheet.  I am going to train my coaching abilities.  The mind is a hypothesis testing machine.  I am actually getting rid of the spreadsheets all together.


Large amounts of data like that can create a confirmation bias that I do not want to alter my decisions. Also, the colors like green, yellow, and red will create a change in my decisions whether it is conscious or subconscious.


We will measure performance to make sure our decisions are leading us in the right direction.  I think the flexibility is important in the programming because this sport is way more psychological than people think.


The math suggests that strength gains are infinite.  I don’t think the math is wrong.  I think a lifter’s perceptions will limit the weight on the bar at some point.  Elite athletes usually have this irrational confidence in themselves.  It definitely distinguishes them from others.


There are acute fatigue factors that build up in a training session.  However, how long does it take for the person to recover from them?  It certainly doesn’t take that long.  Your CNS is not fried like you think.


If we take a hard triple on the squat, it probably takes 9 seconds.  This is 2 plays in the NFL.  Context is everything here.  We recover much quicker from this than many think.  From a physical standpoint.  Perhaps our perceptions are what holds us back in this situation?


Any lingering drops in performance, in my theory, comes from something psychological.  The pain that we experience from training is the same thing. It is not due to tissue damage. It is more psychological in nature.


This doesn’t mean it is in your head.  The pain is where you are feeling it.  Sometimes we train through it and sometimes it is better not to piss it off.  We alter positions for a few days and go from there.  It matters, but it isn’t structural.


This explains the high rates of individuality seen with this.  I also feel this can be trained to improve.  However, having a flexible program that meets the needs of the lifter addresses these individual differences.  It also addresses the changing individual.


If these internal factors are more important on a macroscopic scale how do we measure them? As of right now I believe the answer is we can’t measure them in a sensitive enough way to get the information we desire.  We need to trust our education and experience to make these decisions.


I believe there is a lot of strength to be had out of self-efficacy.  I will expand on these topics at a later time as this article is getting longer and longer.  I am open to questions and discussions on this stuff as well.  Keep that in mind.

Is It Time to Move on From My Data?

Written by: Kevin Cann


I have written about my change of focus coaching over the past 5 or 6 months.  I have mentioned how I have way more questions than answers. This was a drastic shift in my thinking as I believed that I had more answers than questions before.


How could I not think that I had all of the answers?  I have this amazing Excel spreadsheet that tracks everything that is important.  It tracks ACWR (acute: chronic work ratio), tonnage, number of lifts, percentage of those lifts that are competition lifts, average intensity, breakdown of tonnage based off of squat, bench press, and deadlift.


With all of this data I should have been able to guarantee progress for everyone.  However, this just did not happen.  The ACWR would drop below the recommended .8 for 2 weeks before a competition.  The competition would be a spike in workload, but no one was getting hurt.


This worked the other way around as well.  A few lifters tweaked some things when their ACWR was around 1.0.  This is far below the 1.5-2.0 that is recommended to avoid going over.  At other times it could be over 2 for weeks and the lifter would feel great.


I had also noticed there was a huge individual difference with this number.  I brought this up on my podcast with Gabbett and he said this was common.  He also said that this is a monitoring tool and shouldn’t be used to make decisions. The coach needs to use his gut.


I track tonnage as well. This is the data I use to calculate the ACWR.  I would also try to push tonnage to drive results.  This would work sometimes but would not work other times.  This can be said about all of the other data points. Sometimes they helped, sometimes they didn’t.


If I plotted these points on a graph, they would be chaotic.  It is easy to disregard the outliers and chalk up those to something different.  That is just not my personality.  I tend to become hyper focused on the outliers because I feel the answers to larger questions lie out there.


You can see how much I have focused on this over the years with my articles.  This led me to an understanding that strength training is nonlinear. When I first understood that I kind of just threw my hands in the air and accepted it for what it was.


I began to learn more about nonlinear systems.  I started with skill acquisition and a constraints-led approach.  This made me realize that not every lifter was going to learn the same way or react the same way to a training stimulus.


This offered me some insight into how to deal with the progressions, regressions, skips, and jumps of a nonlinear system.  I decided to treat strength as a skill since it is nonlinear and requires nonlinear theory to solve.


I decided to stop structuring my training in the high volume/low intensity, followed by a drop-in volume and increased intensity, followed by increased specificity.  This was assuming that strength is linear and falls within a definitive timeline.  It does not.


This led to me read more about chaos theory in an attempt to understand irregularities.  One part of the current book I am reading really caught my attention.  This scientist named Lorenz was working on weather forecasting.


At the time everyone was hung up on Newtonian math.  The more accurate we are with the initial conditions the better our prediction will be. Lorenz asked what would happen if he started from a data point in the middle instead of with the initial conditions. His answer really resonated with me.


Each starting point yielded a very different outcome.  I went back and reread Kiely’s article “Periodization Paradigms in the 21stCentury: Evidence-led or Tradition-Driven?”  I reread it maybe 4 times.  This time with a much better understanding of dynamic systems.


I made a connection to what Lorenz was talking about with strength training.  Each day that a lifter comes into the gym they are a different person.  Those initial conditions are very far removed.  The further removed we are from them the less value they have in our predictive capabilities.


This means that we need an extremely flexible and adaptable program.  I rely more heavily on my intuition to make these changes than the data I possess.  I believe the data is actually very flawed.


I know there are many coaches out there that use data driven plans.  Many of these coaches are high level and have experienced more success than me.  This is solely my take on this and how I do things.


The data is based off of strength being a linear process.  In order for us to accept this we would need to disregard the outliers.  All training works, but we are trying to be the best possible.  In many cases the data doesn’t offer any answers to the question about the person in front of you.


One of my newer lifters, Marilyn, is a pretty smart chick.  She made a comment that really resonated with me.  She said that intuition just may be data collection done by the coach. Perhaps this is processed consciously and subconsciously based off of what I see.


This makes a lot of sense to me.  But what do I do with my fancy Excel spreadsheets and how do I collect data more efficiently?  One thing that I say a lot to my lifters is that the body only knows effort and the brain is what knows the weight on the bar.


Now, I feel we need to train the brain in this scenario in seeing some of those heavier weights, but ultimately perceived effort may be a better indicator of how hard a training session was instead of tonnage.


I think as coaches we like using things such as tonnage because it is easy to measure and track. We like having answers.  I am at the point now where I feel there aren’t any right answers, just less wrong ones.


I am not looking for something fancy to track this perceived effort.  Just maybe a number for me to know.  Perhaps I don’t even use numbers and just have them write some notes. These notes can go into my intuition to make decisions.


I am at the point where I know every number, I put on this will be wrong at times and there are no definitive answers, so I don’t want to spend time and money on something fancy. I am also going to start just giving number of sets to complete and ranges for weights, giving the lifter more freedom on a day to day basis.


I am done tracking all sets over 50% of 1RM.  I just truly feel it does not matter anymore.  I think we need to practice enough to get stronger.  I think some of this practice needs to be heavy, at least with RPE.  I just need to know how hard a lifter is perceiving that training to be.


Exercises will be decided based off of a constraints-led approach to improve technical issues that I deem to be important.  This variations will be individualized and heavy based off of RPE.


I will track how many hard sets each lifter does as well as performance.  I will make decisions based off of this and how each lifter is currently feeling.  I think our understanding of recovery from training is extremely limited.


Your CNS doesn’t take weeks to recover from overshooting an RPE.  I think at most you see around 4 days from bigger and stronger lifters.  I also believe that these efforts can be trained to be improved.


For example, if you have a lifter that is overly hyped all of the time, take their hype away.  Maybe go no music and they do the best they can under those constraints.  Teach them to not be so emotional when they lift.  This should be addressed the other way too.


If a lifter is constantly getting stressed out over their technique or their feels in training, this needs to be addressed.  Emotions have direct effects on physiological aspects and should not be disregarded.


My personal experience, not wearing my gear for a few weeks after a coopetition is actually a nice mental break from training.  For me there is a psychological piece to getting ready to lift.  Throwing on some flats and going bypasses this.  Just some food for thought.


Risk of injury in this sport is extremely small.  You will feel pain sometimes, this does not mean injury.  I just don’t see lifting leading to structural damage in the raw and drug free powerlifter.  Pain in these cases is less structural in nature and probably more psychological.



This does not mean we ignore pain.  This means we talk about it.  We see where the lifter’s head is at and if it is too uncomfortable, we alter positions for a couple training sessions and go from there.  My best guess is that this is a sign of fatigue, whether mental or physical.



I just do not think that my data captures the complexity of the human.  I am not sure any can.  I think at this point the best data to collect is to monitor performance and have effective communication with each lifter.  We may be able to even put a score on this communication to be able to compare it to other training days.


I am leaning towards rating each training day based off of perceived effort.  Just need to narrow down a scale that works best.