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.

Is the Body 650 Muscles or 1 Muscle?

Written by: Kevin Cann


This is a question every coach should think about for a minute.  It is kind of fun, and perhaps not so black and white.  Science tends to reduce complex systems into its parts and make some giant assumptions that the sum of those parts equals the whole.


This reductionist approach may have served the medical community well at times, but when we look at behavior and skill it tends to take an open complex system and close it.  We are dealing with one human not a bag of 650 muscles plus 1 brain.


Even our research tends to reduce the human body into a bag of muscles.  When researchers look at the squat, they tend to use EMG to look at individual muscle groups at various locations of the squat.  I am not saying that this research is completely useless, but I am also not sure what it really tells us.


These studies are usually performed on untrained participants.  Their skill levels within the lift tend to be very low.  This may just be an example of Bernstein’s degrees of freedom problem.  The human body has a very large number of movement options to choose from to complete a task.


When presented with a new problem, the body will limit the amount of movement options available.  Through practice where movement is explored, the body will free up more degrees of freedom.  This is where the movements being asked of the athlete tend to look more “fluid.”


Degrees of freedom is something that is impossible for a coach to measure on an Excel spreadsheet.  Match this with a big cultural piece.  In the 60s and 70s there was a fascination with bodybuilding in America.  This is the time period where Arnold was at his peak.


These bodybuilders then found their way into movies as iconic action stars.  America began to view being jacked as being strong.  The logic of a larger muscle having greater potential to contract makes sense, but it just does not hold up to the scrutiny of science.


I am not saying muscle mass is not important, but instead the human body will adapt as it needs to, based off of the demands placed upon it.  If we train with more specific weights to 1RM, we will still put on muscle mass, in many cases just as much as a hypertrophy focused program.  I would argue that the body puts on the muscle mass it needs to complete that task and that more is not necessary.


You put all of this together and you have coaches obsessed with Excel spreadsheet numbers because they are measurable and allow us to feel safe in an uncertain world, analyzing lifts based off of EMG results of beginners, and adding in bodybuilding exercises to make them better at powerlifting.


The focus on one muscle group is a bodybuilding ideology.  A program that looks like this is part powerlifting and part bodybuilding.  I feel the majority of people that do this will be less than mediocre bodybuilders and powerlifters.


Now do not get me wrong.  This style of training works for many.  However, watch those lifters when they train.  They are focused and bring intent to every repetition in training.  For example, Westside uses a lot of accessories to get their volume in.  However, watch those guys train.  They absolutely fucking get after it from the second their hands touch the bar to the end of the training session.  No matter what they do, they will get stronger with that attitude.


At the end of the day every program can work, especially if the lifters bring that attitude to it.  You do not get weaker from training.  However, we need to look at what is best to push the field forward.


When we were doing more Sheiko type stuff in the gym we would be spending 10-12 hours per week training.  Now we spend no more than 6 hours per week training, and we are getting even stronger.  For lifters with jobs and lives this is important.


I also think that this is important for longevity.  Training half the time per week will save miles on each lifter.  It just will not beat you up as much because you are not being required to do more than you have to.


Since this thinking dominates the strength sports what should we do instead?  Bernstein’s degrees of freedom was published in 1967, it got lost amongst the culture of bodybuilding.  I think we start there.  A dynamic systems theory approach looks at the whole human as well as the environment in which they live instead of reducing the human into its parts.  This is why I utilize this approach; it treats a non-linear open system as a non-linear open system.


We want to guide this system towards the technical efficiency and the strength necessary to be the best powerlifter that they can possibly be.  In the literature, the closer we train to 1RM, the greater we increase 1RM.  This is the law of specificity.


From there, the coach needs to have a good understanding of technique and how to teach and guide each lifter there.  As Keith Davids says, “Training should have consequences.”  The coach can place the lifter in positions that will punish the technical inefficiency.  The punishment will be an inability to complete the task.


The heavy singles also force the lifter to be completely mentally involved in the training session.  If they are worried about outside stress they will not perform up to their capabilities.  This error teaches the lifter.  It allows the coach and the lifter to constantly be analyzing strengths and weaknesses.  This is something that lighter weights cannot do.


There may be some technical breakdown under lighter weights, but sometimes those breakdowns do not show up until the weight is heavier.  The coach will never identify a mental weakness because there are no consequences to training with lighter weights.


There has to be technical and physical practice under heavier weights to truly get better at handling heavier weights as well.  This is not to say that lighter weights do not have a place.  They absolutely do.  A good program should be utilizing all intensity ranges.  I am a big fan of doing as many singles as possible that allows the individual lifter to recover.  From there, we fill in the blanks with rep work.


I used to push the heavy stuff as long as I could and only pull back when the lifter feels they need to.  The problem with this is eventually coaching becomes nothing more than being reactive to the day to day.  I now take a bit more of a proactive approach.  More is not always better.


Day 1 we have max effort squats, day 2 max effort bench, day 3 is rep bench work followed by max effort deadlifts, and day 4 is rep work for squats and pulls.  The deadlift rotates weekly on day 3 between max effort work and lighter rep work.


If a lifter hits a true 10 on any of these lifts, we replace max effort work with rep work on the following week.  This will usually be around 80% of that max effort lift so that the weights are pretty accurate and done for 4-5 sets of 2-3 reps.  This was our “strength” day so to speak when we ran Sheiko stuff.  This gives the lifter a built in psychological break too.  80% tends to be a weight most lifters can hit for at least 5 reps, this drops the intensity as well.  This day is to maintain the strength qualities that are being developed.


A lot of studies do show burn out from higher intensity programs.  Granted these are not studies on motivated powerlifters, and usually with a ridiculous amount of intensity and frequency, but still something we need to take into consideration.  The lifters write RPEs for all sets in their sheets and this allows me to see how they are recovering.


I actually try to keep these intensities and volumes pretty stable so that I get a good gauge of their recovery abilities.  After the heavy singles on bench and squat we do backdowns.  I usually put 70% of the max effort lift for a 4×4.  I tend to keep this the same on max effort days so that I can compare RPEs.  If they are creeping up more than normal, I know I need to pull back a bit.


Some variations tend to be more difficult to recover from than others.  This is completely dependent upon the individual lifter too.  We run a variation for a 3 week wave.  I learned that most variations run their course in 4-6 weeks so I decided to change it before then so I can use it again in the near future to gauge progress.


These variations are ones that will punish technical inefficiencies.  If a lifter is pitching forward, we may use a wider stance with a high bar position.  I require all my lifters to train in flats and 4-6 weeks out from a meet they are allowed to put the heels back on if they want.


That position will punish pitching forward, but also the flats and the wide stance targets the hips more.  I will use that latter argument at times, but it is more to get buy in than me actually believing it.  I just have a hard time believing that if a lifter’s knees cave in that their glute medius is weak.  The glute medius is small and has a ton of leverage with its position on the hip.  I just don’t think individual muscles like that can be weak.  I think this is more of a skill problem.


This does not mean that these muscles cannot be targeted to become stronger.  Certain angles are more technically efficient and put more emphasis on certain muscle groups.  I know this sounds contradictory but being strong at certain angles is a skill.  More often than not, a few months of targeting these angles and the lifter is hitting PRs from them.


Is this really due to individual muscles getting stronger, or is the lifter’s skill just improving?  Again, is the body 650 muscles or 1 muscle?

Attractors, Distractors, and Cognitive Penetrability

Written by Kevin Cann


When I have explained a Dynamic Systems Theory (DST), I have mentioned the term attractors.  An attractor in a dynamic system is actually a mathematical model where the system always seems to end up at this numerical point regardless of the initial conditions.


When we look at skill acquisition an attractor state is the chosen technique from an athlete under competition requirements.  For example, when the squat gets heavy the lifter pitches forward out of the hole.


We could perform a bunch of lighter weight squats that look good, but this often does not change the attractor state as it does not take into account the emotions of the lifter. Emotions come into the lift when it gets heavy.  I think what we often see is when an athlete becomes nervous, they speed things up in their mind and we see a loss of position.


Emotions are a distractor to the task at hand and they alter how we perform these tasks.  To further explain, we need to understand how attention works.  Our brain is sifting through a ridiculous amount of information.


Think of everything in your visual field when you look somewhere.  If we lacked attention, we would not have spatial awareness and we would not be able to combine light into colors and objects.  It would be impossible for us to perceive the world.


Our brain uses attention to focus on specific objects that give our world context.  Our brain predicts what we will see before we even turn our heads to look.  We will focus (attention) on the objects that we expect to see.  These objects will give our world context in spatial and object recognition.


Distractors would be anything that pulls our attention away.  Perhaps in the scenario above we hear a loud crash behind us.  This would get us to turn our head quickly as we may be predicting there was an accident.  Imagine if we were attempting to throw a ball at a target.


We see the target and everything around it kind of fades out of view.  Then we hear that same crash.  Our attention has gone from the target and the task at hand to seeing if there was an accident.  Or maybe we are driving along, and a person darts out in front of the car and we slam on our breaks.


This happens with training. Our system cannot distinguish between our targets and distractors, no matter how involved in a task we are. This allows the system to remain responsive to any unexpected dangers.


As a coach we can tell a lifter to slow down and control the squat as much as we want, but it most likely will not work until we alter the task constraints.  The lifter is too open to the signal of the distractors, which pull the lifter into the desired attractor state of a squat with the pitching forward.


In order to destabilize this attractor state the lifter needs to learn to deal with the distractors. This is why the individual is a constraint we need to take into consideration.  Their emotions, beliefs, perceptions, and past experiences are all tied to this attractor state.


The more a lifter experiences emotional stress while lifting, the less threat that is perceived with that distractor.  This allows greater attention to be given to the actual task.  If the task is unable to be completed with that pitching forward pattern, and only can be completed with an upright torso, we can begin to destabilize the old attractor state into a new one.


Get a group cheering you on and we have all 3 constraints; the individual, the environment, and the task covered.  This is basically using multiple differential equations in the real world.  Math is cool, especially complex math.  Just focusing on the mechanical stress is applying a linear regression to these equations and will yield far less results.


This is the theory of cognitive penetrability of perception.  Basically, our psychological factors influence our perceptual experiences. We perceive the world, and we perceive movement before it occurs.  This is where I believe the majority of our attention (see what I did there?) should be focused.


There is this old dogma, that breakdowns in the lifts are caused by individual weak muscle groups. This believes that the body performs a task as a sum of all of the muscles added together.  I just do not see how this can actually be true.


I think this became a dogma because we can measure muscle contraction in the lab.  We cannot measure psychological factors or perception in the same way.  The brain controls the coordination of the muscles.  This is why we can’t just do accessories and the big 3 go up.


The argument is that the accessories in combination with the big 3 work.  This may work in some cases by altering expectations.  If the lifter expects it to work, believes it will work, and has done exercises in combination with the big 3 before with success, it can work.  However, I will argue that it works for psychological factors and not mechanical ones.


Similar hypertrophy can be seen across a wide range of loads, even as low as 20% of 1RM, as long as we are training at or near maximal.  I do not buy the theoretical argument that a bigger muscle has greater capacity to contract.


I believe that a stronger mind gives that muscle a greater ability to contract.  If I train at greater than 85% of 1RM at or near failure, and someone trains at 20% at or near failure, our muscle increases will be similar, but strength will not.  The million-dollar question is “why?”


This doesn’t mean that you do some Jedi mind tricks and your total goes up, although it helps.  You train at heavier weights and your perceived efforts change over time because you are pushing them and challenging them. If a lift feels like an RPE 9, but everyone says to go up, and you go up and hit it you are altering your perceived effort.  Your brain needs to update its priors on what an RPE 9 is.


I run variations in a pretty linear fashion.  I think each week this helps the perceptions of the lifter.  If I take 400lbs for 5, I know I can take 420lbs for 4, and 435lbs for 3, and so on.  Chances are the lifter was capable of hitting that new 1RM weeks earlier, but their mind was not ready to do it.  It is not like we get to a single with a 20lb PR and that just happened from tapering volume and supercompensation.  It got the mind ready to handle the new weights.


We hit these PRs often with much better technique.  My theory is that the emotional stress was no longer a distractor.  That distractor has changed to much higher weights now.  With less fear and less nerves, the lifter is able to put more attention to the task and complete it at a higher level.


This can work in the other direction as well.  We know that training is not linear.  What explains a down performance day?  Many will just argue it is mechanical stress leading to it.  Fatigue is a common villain.  This does not make sense to me either.


There is no physiological explanation for a drop-in performance.  Studies showing peripheral fatigue days after a hard training session are looking at voluntary muscle contraction.  What controls voluntary muscle contraction?  The brain.


How does the brain alter perceived effort?  It analyzes all of these feedback loops and makes a decision.  This includes expectations, beliefs, mood, past experiences, outside stress, sleep, energy, etc.  This can be trained.  The lifter can also be educated and given tasks that violate those expectations and beliefs.  Sometimes they hit PRs when they feel like shit.


I am not saying that peripheral fatigue does not exist.  It most certainly does, but more in endurance events than a hard set of squat, bench, or deadlift.  Higher volume programs will most likely come with more measurable peripheral fatigue than high intensity programs.  Another reason why I prefer intensity.  People seem to get more banged up from the higher volumes in my experiences.


When we lift heavy in variations that punish inefficient positions, we are getting more bang for our buck. This is deliberate practice versus more practice.  You don’t need 10,000 hours if you train more adequately for competition and it all starts with perceptions.

Do You See a Rabbit or a Duck?

Written by: Kevin Cann


I was talking with Zak Gabor in the gym yesterday and we were discussing Thomas Kuhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”  In one part of the book, Kuhn shows a picture.  What do you see, a rabbit or a duck?




Let us say that when you look at it, that you see a rabbit.  I point out that the rabbit’s ears could actually be a duck bill, and that the picture could actually be a duck and not a rabbit.  If now you see the duck, I have just changed your perception of the world without changing the world in which you live in.


This is how we actually see the world.  We perceive it a certain way and then we explore it, looking to prove our predicted perceptions correct.  It is not very easy to change someone’s mind on how they perceive the world.


This is not necessarily their fault, but actually how our brain’s are wired.  Our brains do not like to be wrong and will try to prove their expectation and beliefs to be correct.  This rabbit or duck scenario is a good analogy for the world of powerlifting.


When you start out as a coach or athlete you see a rabbit only.  You view the body as a machine that is defined by its leverages.  You view training as depleting energy stores and your CNS ability to do work.  You might even use fancy words like overreaching, overtraining, and supercompensation.


You might argue that daily undulated periodization is superior to linear periodization and structure your training accordingly.  You read about specificity and structure your training with all competition lifts arguing that volume is the driver of results.


There is nothing wrong with this.  We all start here, and I think it is a great starting point.  However, we need to keep an open mind and pay attention to outcomes. All of a sudden all of those things stop working.  We blame it on our nutrition, or outside stress.


None of these situations takes into account the open complex human system.  We are non-linear dynamic creatures.  Instead the above assumes that we are closed systems where we can predict not only the outcomes, but the timing of outcomes.


I believed those pieces to be true, until they weren’t.  In an article titled “Acute Dehydration Impairs Endurance Without Modulating Neuromuscular Function” written by Oliver Barley and colleagues, they show that weight cuts impair strength and endurance in combat sports athletes without altering any physiological components.  It is literally in your head.


You can’t use nutrition, or outside stress as excuses because we do not know how they actually effect performance.  Elite athletes seem to be almost immune to mental fatigue.  I knew a few combat sports athletes that talked about using the weight cut as a mental preparation period.  Their hunger was a symbol for their hunger in the cage.  They performed better with a weight cut!


When the general principles stopped working, I knew I had to change my perceptions.  I had to learn to see the duck.  What I learned is that perception is everything.  Since I have started embracing the uncertainty of things and structuring a training program around what we know actually works, we have seen much higher levels of success.


It is impossible to find optimal volumes, so we threw that out for near max daily sets.  We removed the competition lifts at times and just performed variations of the lifts.  We saw huge improvements from doing this.  We threw out expectations and beliefs about fatigue and we began lifting heavy every single day, only taking a break when our body tells us we need to.


This doesn’t mean we are getting hurt.  We see far fewer nagging things now than we did before.  We just may see a down performance day in the gym.  The effort will be the same, but the weight just may be less.  Over time this continued effort leads to some big increases in performance.


We are seeing the duck, but the rabbit (general principles) are still there.  We are just applying those principles to the individual instead of generally.  This changes the game quite a bit.  In fact, it makes it look so different that people get angry about it on the internet.


Those people do not want to see the duck.  They only see the rabbit, and the rabbit is like a stuffed animal that they have held every night to keep out the bogeyman.  They clutch it so tight so that it brings them comfort.  Just like a child that needs to move on from the stuffed animal, so do these people, or they will never progress.


I think this picture tells even more of the story of strength sports.  Perception is everything.  I run a Dynamic Systems Theory/Constraints-Led Approach with PPS. This framework accepts the non-linearity of things and guides the coach to make decisions based off of the individual’s emotions, beliefs, perceptions, and biomechanics as well as the environment’s affects (the team atmosphere), and the actual task.


I structure the tasks so that inefficient techniques are punished, and only more efficient solutions are allowed.  However, breakdowns in technique may be nothing more than our perceptions working against us.


If we think a weight will be hard and heavy and we are nervous, we tend to speed up the actions in our brain.  When we speed up the actions we see pitching forward in the squat, pushing the bar towards the hips on the bench press, and hips rising on the deadlift.


If the coach gets the lifter to slow it down a bit in their head, we often see the lifter lift the same, and sometimes more, weight efficiently.  It is not a weak muscle group, or your biomechanics leading to inefficiency.  It is the lack of confidence in your head. This is not all conscious, there are subconscious pieces to this.


We pause a lot on the halfway up or do very long concentric tempos, or pin squats even and we see improvements.  These improvements are gradually altering our perceptual-motor landscape.  We perceive a movement, predict a motor strategy, get feedback from the movement, and update our predictions.  This is what basically happens, but over a period of time.  The brain does not like to be disproven, but it will slowly compromise.  There are also many levels to this.


When we alter the task, we are not just altering the perception of the actual movement.  We are increasing perceived effort.  Putting your feet out a couple of inches and the bar an inch higher on your back, does not alter mechanics enough to explain a drop-in performance.


Your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and back are still lifting the weight.  Many lifters prefer a wider stance in the squat.  Bryce Lewis and John Haack squat with a high bar position with high success.  Some lifters bench more with a closer grip than a wider one.


We like to sound smart by talking moment arms and leverages, but if we believe this to be true, we are blind to what we see as a whole.  If we use a reductionist view of biomechanics, we lose the mind and the mind is running this show.


It may be as simple as altering these tasks raises perceived effort.  We run these “harder” variations for a period of time.  We get the competition lift back and we now perceive similar efforts at much higher weights with a more comfortable position. We gain confidence and have the support of a team and we ride that wave to a large PR.


When we run variations, we can see them be very difficult at first.  However, over time we see improvements.  Large improvements over a few weeks.  This just may be the lifter’s brain adapting to the perceived effort of the exercise.  The lifter begins to feel a bit more comfortable with it, the brain is being trained, and the exercise becomes easier.  Often, lifters hit their previous 1RM in a variation or even an all-time PR.


Kerry hit 300lbs off pins (8lb PR), Alyssa hit 345lbs high bar wide stance tempo (20lb PR), Doug hit his previous best off pins with high bar, Allie hit a 5lb PR off pins, Vin hasn’t touched heavier weights at all just really long tempo and took 5kg less than his opener for a 5 reps.  Tempo alters perceived effort.  Keep that high and when the lifter can be comfortable, we see improvements.


Training perceived effort is a way of training the brain.  I often tell lifters to go up when it feels heavy and so does the group. This is when the weight feels heavy to the lifter, but physiological function is not changed.  Strength is there.  In fact, physiological reasons do not explain down performance days. However, mental fatigue can explain it. This doesn’t mean we can just talk ourselves into it.  The brain is in charge.  We can trick it and train it, but ultimately it will make a decision to consciously stop.


This story to be continued.

From Sheiko to Where We Are Now

Written by: Kevin Cann


This article is going to go with a solo podcast I just recorded.  I discussed how I started and how we ended up doing things the way that we do them now.  This is going to be a quick addition as I believe that people think we do so many things different than we did before.


When we were mimicking a Sheiko program before we were using a specific number of lifts and average intensity based off of lifter classification.  We used percentages for these numbers.  Technique was the primary driver of exercise selection and those other factors.


We would squat 2 times per week, deadlift 2 times per week, and bench 3-4 times per week.  There would be high, medium, and low stress training days sprinkled throughout the block.  We would even do the dreaded double lift days.


Currently, I do not write sets, just exercise and suggested top weight.  There are no percentages and the top sets are just a range of RPEs from 8.5 to 9.5.  The frequencies of lifts shift around as well.  The rest of the information is lifter dependent.


The lifter chooses the number of sets based off of how the day is going and how they feel they need to warmup.  They have rules governing the top sets.  They are to get 1-2 at RPE 8.5-9.5.  I give a suggested weight, but they can adjust accordingly.  Sometimes it does not work well at first, but then they drop the weight and work back up and hit it.  Sometimes they don’t work back up.


If they do not work back up, that is a lighter or medium stress day.  They still have those; they just self-organize into them.  We get so hellbent on general principles being true that we think we can predict when the lifter will need a break and we think we can predict performance.  None of this is true.


The human body is pretty amazing.  There are all kinds of feedback loops that can dictate this process if we just listen. If fatigue is going to affect performance, we will see it by the top set being less than we anticipated.  Sometimes the lifter feels tired and still exceeds that number.


We need to embrace uncertainty and understand that we are not smarter than the human body.  I will vary frequencies based off of performance for the lifters.  Sometimes 3 days a week where we squat twice, bench 2-3 times, and deadlift once is better. Sometimes we need more.  It often will look exactly like it used to with 4 days per week.  Squats and deadlifts twice and bench 3-4 times.


We still use double lift days as I see appropriate.  I still use variations to attack the technical inefficiencies.  These variations make up the majority of the volume just like they did before.  I vary more now, where before everything was in comp stance or grip.  Now I move the lifters around in a bunch of different positions.


Instead of getting lots of sets for practice, I choose to have a more targeted approach where our practice will be more specific.  We will get the 1-2 sets at a very challenging weight.  Effort at the end might be the same, I just choose to use a heavier weight as I feel it is a different skill and has an emotional response from the lifter.


This is a constraints-led approach.  We get more deliberate practice, so we don’t need as much.  There was the old 10,000-hour rule that was believed to be true, but research suggests that it comes down more to the quality of training than the quantity.  How much each person needs are dependent on that person.  Everyone learns at a different rate.


Everyone has different stuff going on outside of the gym.  We do not know how this stuff can affect performance, but sometimes it may be best to just do 3 days as trying to get that 4thday in just becomes a stressor to them.  Sometimes performance stalls and we got to suck it up and get that 4thday in.


There are no answers. As a coach I feel we need to guide the process with the general principles in the back of our minds.  I learned the general principles from Sheiko, and you can still see how heavily our programs are influenced by him.  I choose to use 1 to 2 hard sets for the number of lifts and average intensity now, but technique is still first.  The structure changes throughout as I see fit, but much of it is still influenced from the structure I used under him.  It may seem very different, but it is not so different at all.