Why Training Harder is and is not the Answer

Written by: Kevin Cann

 

The title of this article may seem a little contradictory but hear me out.  I have discussed the uncertainties with fatigue quite a bit in past articles and on podcasts.  I have also discussed the importance of self-organization for each individual to find the sweet spot of when the lighter days or weeks comes into play.

 

They were instructed to take how they feel and make decisions based off of those feelings, combined with how weights were moving while warming up.  I coach competitive powerlifters.  There is not much “taking it easy” in this group.

 

What I observed were the lifters getting strong as fuck very quickly.  They were coming in each week and just crushing it.  Some were ripping off 8+ weeks of continued PRs.  This led me to question everything I believed about fatigue and programming.

 

I decided to let it continue to run and see what happens.  What I realized is that going balls to the walls can be done for a period of time.  This period of time seems to be about 6 months.  Keep in mind that I coach beginners to intermediates.  This number may significantly drop with a greater skillset within the sport.

 

After that period of time, the lifters would start to develop some nagging issues and some loss of motivation.  In spite of my telling them not to do this, some would continue to push and end up suffering a setback.

 

Oftentimes, when the lifters started to experience a nagging issue or a drop in motivation, we pulled back for a week.  After this semi-deload, we would see a PR in many cases.  This is a good sign that there is some fatigue building up here.

 

I have mentioned this issue as well, we were getting slower from the constant intensity.  I assumed the warmups and first few reps of higher rep sets would be enough to maintain speed.  The Russians showed that all four aspects of strength are seen in a jump, the same is true of max effort lifts.  Speed matters here.

 

This is a case for, training harder is not the answer.  We probably didn’t need to train as hard as we were on a day to day basis.  By hard I am referring to the intensity of the lifts.  However, we could train harder on given days.

 

We were staying within an RPE 9-9.5 on a daily basis.  We ran 6 week cycles on average that would start at 5 reps and taper down to singles.  This is mostly submaximal work.  Anything over a single is submax, plus everything we were hitting was under an RPE 10.  This is all submaximal.

 

We have switched over to utilizing more singles for maximal effort work.  I have learned that volume is what really beats you up.  The closer we are to 1RM, the better it is at building our 1RM.  Now, we have learned that we can’t do that every single day.  We also need to have some workload within a training plan.

 

When I was coached by Sheiko, fatigue would be an often used tool to build technique and increase perceived effort.  Westside uses a similar approach with their dynamic effort days.  I have begun to incorporate something similar within our programs.

 

I am calling these speed days to enforce what I want out of the lifters.  These days use typical daily volumes and intensities that I utilized with Sheiko.  I even incorporate some of his special exercises within these days.

 

In the past we may have done 5 sets of 4 reps at 70% squat with chains.  I like Westside’s view of getting more first reps in training.  We now might do 10×2 70% squats with chains and you need to finish within 20 minutes.

 

I have done similar things with pauses on the halfway down squats, high bar squats, paused box squats, and many others.  This day is to not only develop speed, but to work on technique.  Our goal on this day is to be fast and technical.

 

There are times that we will push the intensities of this day with straight weight.  We may do a 10×2 at 80% with a bit more time to complete the training.  Most people can hit 80% for at least 5 reps.  This would make the RPE a 7, pretty fast and manageable for technique.  Fatigue builds, raising that perceived effort.  This should have greater carryover to the technique under more maximal weights, but without beating the lifters up too bad.  We would often get this same number of reps at 80% on a given day with Sheiko.

 

Managing loads on the maximal effort days is also important.  We squat for max effort on day 1, and day 3 we pull heavy.  We have been pulling heavy on day 2, but we need to space this out a bit more.  There is some skill involved in coordinating these efforts.

 

The goal of max effort is to practice straining like we will on the platform for third attempts.  The weight is only secondary here (although if a lifter is scared of a given weight this needs to be addressed).  We can choose a max effort squat that limits the absolute loads.  This seems to save the lifter quite a bit.

 

For example, Dave has been doing wide stance box squats w/ bands and chains.  This limits the weight on the bar to between 85% and 90% of 1RM.  The accommodating resistance was adding another 150lbs.  This exceeds his 1RM at the top, and the strain was as hard as anything I have seen him perform.

 

This allowed him to pull heavy on his day 3.  We also used bands and chains here, but less of them so that we could get more bar weight on the floor.  The bar weight was a little over 90% off the floor but overloaded the top slightly so that Dave could work on that lockout.

 

Even doing this, every 3rd week seemed to be a down deadlift day.  Moving forward we will add in speed pulls in this spot.  Fitting the deadlift into max effort work with squats is very tricky, but it definitely can be done.

 

I do not think we need to deadlift as often as we squat.  Even if we deadlift heavy 1-2 times per month, I think that will work well.  Seems like most can go for 2-3 weeks before they need a break from the pulls.  Oftentimes, we keep squats very heavy during this week and the lifter is still able to recover for the following week.

 

Westside does not deadlift as often, and they only have 1 max effort lower day.  Being in the equipment, they lift a lot more absolute loads than we do.  I think this matters and gives us the ability to add in some more max effort lower exposures per month.  This is true even if it is just 1-2 of those exposures.

 

We are running most exercises in 3 week waves.  Week 3 is where we really send it.  Perhaps we go whole hog on the squats, but deload the intensity of the deadlifts on this week.  This would make it a lower intensity deadlift day every 3rd week, but lets the lifter push it the first 2, when the squats aren’t achieving a full out max.  We tend to leave 5-10lbs on the bar during those weeks.

 

If we are capable of going all out for 6 months at a time before we start seeing some issues, adding in these lighter speed weeks, and pulling back every 3rd week on the pulls, will extend that 6 months even further.  Fatigue is an accumulated process.  These days are not easy, but they are different and a break from heavier weights.  They also get the lifter in and out of the gym in much faster times.

 

We may use lighter bar weight and accommodating resistance at times on these speed days.  This may allow for even more recovery and allow us to stretch out the max effort sessions even longer.  I am sure lifters will need a break at some point but finding balance can allow us to do max effort lifts on a year round basis.

 

Training is the accumulation of days, not what we can stretch out of one day.  I think we are getting closer to something that will allow us to train hard over each calendar year.  This is a huge advantage to our performance.

 

We are going to train harder than we have on given days, but we are going to pull back harder on other days. That is how training harder is and is not the answer.

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My Implementation of “Speed Work”

Written by: Kevin Cann

 

Over the course of the last 4-5 years we have gone from running a very “Sheiko-esque” program, to switching gears a bit and making it more intensity focused.  Don’t get me wrong, there are still lots of influences from Sheiko within our programs.

 

I still am big on technique being the most important aspect of training.  A Sheiko program was very big on building technique with repetition based training.  Sets very rarely went over 85% of 1RM and when they did the ROM was often manipulated.

 

We saw very good results using this type of training.  However, when weights became near maximal, the lifters technique would breakdown.  I also noticed that the lifters would get very nervous when the weights got heavy.  These nerves definitely played a role in this breakdown in technique.

 

I had this belief that we make technique efficient with lots of repetitions with lighter weights, but we were not practicing the situations that the lifters are put in during maximal lifts and competition.  I knew I needed to use weights large enough to create an emotional response within the lifters.

 

I manipulated variations more and we loaded them up.  These variations would hopefully punish technical inefficiencies and force the lifters to perform the lifts with better technique.  Over this period of time I noticed we got stronger and stronger the heavier we lifted.

 

When I was implementing this, I figured the warmups would be enough sets in those lighter weight zones to get the repetitions/practice needed to improve technique.  Reps are important for these reasons.  I think of strength training as a balance between brute strength and technique.

 

The variations and the repetitions working up to top sets should help technique, and the heavy top sets should develop the brute strength necessary to move more weight.  We are definitely moving more weight.

 

Yesterday Doug, a 66kg lifter who finished 10thin the Juniors at Nationals last year, squatted 460lbs on a wide stance box squat.  This is 55lbs more than he squatted last October, and 40lbs more than he squatted at the end of April.  These types of jumps are not that uncommon.

 

To change courses just a bit here as I feel it is an interesting observation.  Oftentimes when these large jumps level out, we get a longer stagnation period.  This is what made me interested in complex theory and power-law relationships.

 

This may be why most coaches want 5-10lbs at a time.  It might keep motivation higher by constant increases in performance.  I do not agree with this philosophy.  Tomorrow is not guaranteed, take what is there now.

 

Mike D’amico put 50lbs on his squat from Regionals of last year to Regionals this year.  It just so happened he did it from January to April and it has leveled off since then.  This is very good progress on one lift in a year from someone that has been lifting for more than 5 years.  Progress is not linear, however.

 

These periods of stagnation are important.  The Russians have a saying, the weights and workloads must mature and ripen and then we add more.  In complex theory, in order to have an “avalanche” the system needs to reach a point of criticality.

 

What we see with these large PRs is a large avalanche, a small PR would be a small avalanche. There are no differences between the causes of large and small PRs.  Once the avalanche is over it takes the system time to build up to a state of criticality.

 

During this period, the lifter gets to use the same weights and workloads over and over as strength slowly builds in the background.  This allows those weights to mature and ripen as the Russians say.

 

In terms of stress, training is pretty stressful when those PRs are happening frequently.  Constantly hitting newer and newer weights in all kinds of positions becomes very tough training.  As it levels off, the stress is lowered as the weights become more and more familiar.  The same psychological arousal is not necessary to handle the same weights anymore and technique becomes more consistent.

 

I have said in the past that these periods of stagnation are necessary.  They are a normal trend in complex systems for a reason.  The reason is far outside of our understanding, but we can use this time period to our advantage.

 

Many lifters struggle to realize this for some reason.  If they go a month or 2 or 3 without seeing progress on a lift, after having very good progress for a period of time, they think progress has stopped.  Too often lifters look into the day to day instead of the longer term trends.

 

There is a reason why most high level coaches say you cannot peak for more than 1-2 competitions in a year. Progress is not linear.  A few months is not a long time in the giant scheme of things.  Periodization tries to account for these “down” times by phasing out training.  The problem with that is we cannot predict when those “down” times are going to occur.

 

These periods allow us to refine technique because more weight is not being added to the bar, so brute strength is taking a backseat.  On paper this all sounds great and I stand by the science.  However, lifters do not necessarily make the best decisions on a day to day basis.

 

We talk frequently, but to develop this skill it will take years.  I got lifters that will just max out every day they come into the gym. These lifters are maniacs.  The program calls for a top set between RPE 8.5-9.5.

 

If you feel like shit, keep it at an 8.5 and maybe take an extra set there, or not.  Feeling good, push it a bit.  These should still be submax weights that the lifter can control. There will be some breakdown, but we learn from errors.

 

When we get closer to an RPE 10 more frequently, our technique will change in ways we cannot account for with variation.  Lifters will begin to squat slower and bring the bench press down slower.  The lifter will lose some pop off of the floor with deadlifts that could be due to position, or just being a bit fatigued. The fatigue I don’t worry about as much.

 

I needed to find a way to keep this in check as well as making sure we are not just maxing out every day.  If we did not work full-time jobs and live in a culture that fears fatigue, we would be able to push those RPE 10 lifts much more often.

 

One thing I have been doing over the last year when a lifter gets stagnate in a lift, and begins to lose confidence, is adding in a block of “speed lifts.”  These basically follow Prilepin’s chart with shortened rest. Many times we took 90% singles for a handful of sets.

 

Prilepin’s chart has some downfalls to use as a main tool for deciding intensities and volumes. For one, it was for weightlifters and not powerlifters.  However, it is a good starting point for the lifter to get quality reps.  We can increase the difficulty by decreasing the rest.

 

A lot of Sheiko’s program would fit nicely into Prilepin’s chart.  The intensities were made greater by adding a pause or accommodating resistance. The total volume would often exceed the recommendations of the chart.

 

Adding in this “speed work” occasionally can have some big benefits.  In chaos theory some small perturbations can create large outcomes.  These are not predictable, but I think this can help a lot.

 

For one, these weights are a nice psychological break from lifting heavier more often.  An example would be 8-10 sets of 2 reps at 80% to be completed within 25-30 minutes.  This will be hard, but hard in a different way than what each lifter is used to. The intensities will range from 75% to 90% for 1 to 4 reps for 6-12 sets.

 

These weights will allow lots of practice with lighter weights, while keeping effort high.  It will also get the lifters in and out of the gym.  Too often lifters will take very long rests between sets and end up lifting for 2-3 hours. 2 lifts in a “speed day” should have them in and out of the gym within 1 hour.  This allows for more time to recover and to get other life things done.  Time becomes a stressor for lifters because we all have lives outside of the gym and we need to get shit done sometimes.

 

My implementation of it will not be each week.  To start I will add in a “speed week” every 3rdweek.  Most lifters can push really hard for 2 weeks when they know we will be pulling back.  I will give them more freedom here to go harder on some of those days as well.

 

If they feel good, we will send it.  I think this is a nice compromise between myself and those lifters I have that live the RPE 10 lifestyle.  I also think it gives everyone a bit more flexibility in training.

 

I feel adaptations are more likely to occur when we do extreme things.  Doing extreme things, comes with higher risk for consequences as well.  I think this will be a nice way to get some extremes into training while mitigating some of the consequences.  Guess we will see.  The early feedback so far has been very good from the lifters.

 

Seems to build confidence and momentum while working on technique with relatively heavy weights.

Technique + Strength + Skill, Oh My

 

Written by: Kevin Cann

 

I have officially been involved in the sport of powerlifting for 5 years now.  I literally had to do the math a few times because I did not believe it.  The older I get the faster that time seems to move.  My daughter is somehow 11 years old too!

 

Over this period of time I have been fortunate enough to learn from so many other coaches and athletes. I also have been fortunate enough to learn from so many of the PPS lifters as well.  We have changed what we do quite a bit over time.

 

Being coached by Sheiko for the first 3 years, our programs looked very similar to what Sheiko’s looked like.  However, I found out that that style of training will not work as well with lifters here.  A big reason for this is due to our culture and the time we spend in this sport.

 

In Russia they go to schools where powerlifting is basically a subject.  From the time they are a youth athlete, they are part of the Soviet System.  To save time I will not go into details on how this works, but they follow this system for over 10 years before they are even a junior in competitions.

 

Not every athlete there climbs up the classification chart to be a Master of Sport in International Competition.  Many lifters “wash out” of these schools long before that happens.  Once they are identified to not have what it takes to get further, they are given a certificate for their current classification and they move on.  Some might even move on to coaching.

 

The ones that end up becoming a Master of Sport or higher are the ones that continue to see progress with this style of training.  My guess is this is the same as the Greek and Bulgarian systems as well.  Not every Russian reaches this classification, we just hear about the ones that do.

 

Sheiko was big on technique first.  This often gets misunderstood in translation.  He would control loads but make them more difficult with variations to work on technique within the lifts.  You would get a lot of practice with these variations and these same loads. Training was very hard, but very hard in a different way.  It was a lot of work, often taking over 3 hours to complete a session.

 

We had great success using these methods, but I learned that technique was still breaking down with heavier weights.  I remember Sheiko talking about meeting Louie Simmons and the difference in their programming.  Sheiko said that Louie emphasized strength first, while he emphasized technique first.

 

This wasn’t a criticism of his methods.  Instead it was a very enlightening conversation about how coaching works. Sheiko also said that powerlifting is big enough for many different methods.  This also resonated with me quite a bit.

 

I started adding in more heavier weights into our training.  Over about a 2 year period, we added many heavier weights into our training. We work up to 1-2 hard sets of an RPE 8.5-9.5 each training session.

 

I also added in more drastic variations to bring a skill component to our training.  I started placing lifters in positions that would punish technical inefficiencies, and we will push weights in these positions. This is how we acquire those skills. Lifting heavy also allows the lifter to practice their skill of competing.

 

When we go to a competition, most lifters for PPS are not nervous.  We do this every day in the gym.  We compete.  Not against each other, but against ourselves and our emotions.  We learn to harness them and be more confident lifters.

 

Perhaps we swung the pendulum too far towards the strength side.  When I initially changed things up, I assumed the warmups would be enough to get those sets in to work on technique.  However, I realized many lifters were taking huge jumps and all of the focus was on the top set.  The warmups were just pushed aside as nothing more than that, a warmup.

 

Also, lifters were taking huge jumps to not be “tired” for their top set.  Basically, lifters were doing like 9 seconds of good solid work for each lift.  That is it. That is a far cry from the 3+ hours we would train in the beginning.  This made me realize that I need to interject here again.

 

I started giving more days with more “top sets”. For example, a lifter might hit a hard set of 3 reps at 300lbs on the squat, at an RPE 9.  I might have them hit this for 2-3 sets the following week, and then even maybe 3-4 sets the week after that.  Sometimes I drop the weight a little to do this.  The following week we may work up to a heavy triple again. This has been working well.

 

They get more practice with submaximal weights that are still heavy, and we see that triple go up pretty significantly.  When we push a single now, we see a bigger number on that bar.  I base these decisions off of their best competition lifts.

 

This is a nice parallel between how we ran a Sheiko style program before to what we do now.  It takes care of the weights being too light, and since they work up to a heavy set the week before, I have a good idea for what weight we put on the bar.  These sessions are VERY difficult.

 

One other aspect of a Sheiko program is the alternating of stress levels on each training day.  Some days are high stress, others medium, and some low.  When I go back and look at everyone’s programs now, we see this trend play out for everyone.

 

We have been doing a lot more comp singles in training as well.  This is not something we work up to each training day.  This is a weight I prescribe, that they are not allowed to go up from.  If they feel like shit they can go down, but I encourage them to just hit this weight no matter what.

 

This weight is a hard, but doable weight.  It is not something they should miss.  Often it lies between their best double and triple.  On a good day it might be an RPE 8, and on a tough day it will be a solid RPE 9. It is basically practice with a weight between an opener or second attempt.

 

This helps me to gauge their progress a bit.  It also gives each lifter some feedback as to where they are at on a given training day and it can help them make better decisions on their other work.  It highlights some weaknesses within their comp lifts too and they work on tightening it up under that given load.

 

I have gone through periods of time where I put more emphasis on accessories and less emphasis on them.  This has been one of those things I have really struggled with.  I use far more variation now than I used to.

 

We are constantly changing foot position, bar position, grip, and stance.  This is to ensure that we are training all angles and creating well rounded lifters.  I think this decreases the need for accessory work.  Accessory work comes in more as a filler when the volume drops for the competition lifts and their variations.

 

My programs have gotten far simpler over time.  I write a lot about theoretical concepts, but our programs are extremely simple.  I give the lifter way more responsibility now. I went from being a dictator to being a facilitator.  I guide the process with exercises to improve technical efficiency, suggested weight, and many conversations to help each lifter make the best training decisions possible each training day.

 

Over my 5 years of coaching in this sport we focused on technique over everything, swung the pendulum far to the strength side, and began to focus on strength as a skill.  Now it is time to bring it all together.  To take these last 5 years of learning and put our best product on the platform.

Understanding Acute Fatigue….Or Not

 

Written By: Kevin Cann

 

I had a very good conversation with Quinn Henoch about acute fatigue.  I then posed this same question and had this same discussion with Mike Amato of Barbell Medicine.  I feel sharing some of these thoughts will be entertaining at the least.

 

The question that Quinn asked me was “Why can’t you squat your true 1RM for a double?”  My response: “Hold my beer.”  This led to a pretty long discussion afterwards.  I hope Quinn does not mind, but I am going to share his take on this:

 

“As with all of this, I think it is multifactorial, but yes (physical issues lead to not doubling your true 1RM).  I think physiology plays a role.  Everyone has a max at every rep range.  What stops them from getting 1,2, or 10 more reps, I don’t know-but I am not ready to discard physiology…I fully concede that the psychological element is a big time player.”

 

I think this is a fantastic explanation of the situation.  I actually agree with 99% of it.  Like most things, we agree on the majority, but get really hung up on the smaller pieces.  For now I am going to focus on that 1%.

 

I agree that it is an interplay between physical and psychological factors, that is undeniable. However, I am reluctant to call fatigue the culprit of the inability to double my 1RM and here is why.

 

ATP-PC lasts for about 10 seconds.  A hard single is 3-5 seconds.  I do not see ATP being an issue here.  If we were discussing a triple, perhaps.  A more confusing piece of this puzzle lies with our motor units.  This excerpt comes from “A motor unit-based model of muscle fatigue” written by Jim Polvin and Andrew Fuglevand

 

“Fig 5C shows the force contribution of the individual MUs over the course of the 100% force trial.  It is important to note that, at the outset of the trial, before any fatigue occurred, the forces produced by the highest threshold MUs were less than their theoretical forces.  For example, MU120 had a capacity to generate 100 times more force than MU1, yet its initial force at 100% MVE was only 57 times greater than MU1. This was due to: a) the imposed “onion skin” organization that limits the maximum firing rates of high threshold MUs to be less than that of low threshold MUs, and b) the briefer contraction times of high threshold MUs which decreased their normalized firing rates and led to lower forces.  This implies that there is a reserve capacity of force that is not normally accessed even during maximal voluntary efforts.”

 

Is it fatigue if our body is holding reserves, or is it just the fact that we are not trained or adapted to handle that?  Is it that we accept that our 1RM is our 1RM, and we believe that we can’t double that, so we accept we can’t?  To be fair, no one knows the answer to this, and we are most likely far away from that answer, but it is fun to think about.

 

The majority of this research is performed on endurance events.  This is due to the fact that inducing measurable fatigue with intensity, in a laboratory setting, is very difficult, if not impossible.  It gets even more difficult to measure afterwards as central and peripheral fatigue recovers very quickly.  Muscle damage is the only measurable piece that lasts more than a few hours.

 

This does not mean that fatigue is not present.  We can’t measure it.  This probably speaks more to our lack of understanding with what it is.  It also does not rule out that it is not a culprit in this situation.

 

Quinn then asked, “But could “acute fatigue” not just be a proxy term for the accumulation of factors that cause us to fail a set?”  This made a light bulb go off in my head.  We are disagreeing about “fatigue” in this case because we are defining it differently.

 

I have always associated fatigue with being tired, either physically or psychologically.  I have watched lifters miss a weight 2 weeks in a row, only to come back week 3 and hit it, and never miss it again.  We did not pull back in these cases.  In some we pushed even harder.  These lifters weren’t tired, they just weren’t adapted was my response to myself.

 

With a different definition, I think communication can be improved on this topic.  I proposed this definition of fatigue to Mike Amato:

 

“A decrease in performance that is a result of psychological factors that include mood, perceptions, expectations, and cultural beliefs, as well as physical properties that include available energy stores, heart rate, and core temperature.  These two pieces are not exclusive as it is the same individual. Biological processes such as motor unit recruitment is a combination of both physical and psychological factors and is a contributor to decreases in performance.  Fatigue is a multifactorial process that extends beyond the feelings of exhaustion and tiredness.”

 

Mike made a great point; it does not always decrease performance. Adding in after the decreased performance; decreased motivation, and/or increases in pain sensitivity is important. We can be fatigued and still driving progress forward, but for how long?  In these situations we see a loss of motivation and increases in pain sensitivity.  Often these issues are due to factors outside of the gym, and not the training itself.

 

 

Having a better definition of fatigue can allow for more productive conversations regarding the subject matter.  I think many coaches view fatigue as being tired and needing to pull back.  I think this definition highlights how complex fatigue is and how we do not always need to pull back when a lifter is fatigued. However, sometimes we do need to pull back.

 

This is just a start on the topic.  More to come.

Sports are Not a Stress Outlet and Being Elite is on You, Not Your Program

 

Written by: Kevin Cann

 

I hear this quite a lot, “I lift to deal with my regular life.”  Maybe not that exact same quote, but something like that.  This may feel great on some days but will come back to bite you in the ass at some point.

 

When we are stressed, we can’t just take that anger and frustration we feel and put it into the weights.  Stress, anger, and frustration all change how we accomplish movement tasks.  This was a lesson I learned the hard way.

 

In my early 20s I started the MMA thing as an outlet for my stress and anger.  I quickly learned that when I allowed my feelings from my personal life to leak into my training my reaction time was slower, my combinations did not flow as smoothly, and punches actually hurt more because your neck is stiff and tense and not rolling with the punches.

 

The combination of those things would lead to subpar performance that would only make me more frustrated. When this happens you have two options: Figure it out or quit.  In a sport where you are getting hit in the face, it kind of forces you to make that decision.

 

Going through this taught me a lot about dealing with my emotions.  Sport taught me how to deal with life.  It is not an outlet for when you feel bad, but instead sport is a teacher to teach you how to deal with those emotions.  This difference in perspective is huge.

 

Powerlifting is a bit different as no one is getting hit in the face (although some should), I see so often a lifter allowing the perceived negativity from their personal lives to flow into their training.  The lifter does not take a few minutes to get their mind right, but instead just starts warming up.

 

Everything from their facial expressions to their body language tells you that something is not right with them on this day.  When I see this as a coach, I want to ask them who is messing with them and do a few MMA rounds with them, but every moment like this is a teaching moment with life skills that can be taught.

 

I know things will probably not go well in training for them that day, but I often do not interject. It is on them to figure it out. It is on them to get their mind right before they lift and to make the right decisions for the weight to put on the bar.  I know neither of those things will often happen.

 

Instead the lifter will sulkingly take a top set, which I plan around an RPE 9 based off of last week’s performance, probably when they were in high spirits.  They will miss the weight and throw the equivalent of an adult temper tantrum.  During this temper tantrum there are no good training decisions being made.  This training day was a complete waste of time, except for the lifter now dumping all of life’s frustrations on me.  This sure as shit didn’t work as a good outlet for stress.  Now I need a stress outlet!  I am kidding, this is the coach’s job, to guide the human, not just write a program.

 

We have all done this too. I have definitely done it myself and there is not a lifter on PPS that hasn’t done this.  It is recognizing it, recognizing it is on you to figure it out, and to stop putting blame on everything else.  It isn’t the program, it is you.

 

I think that the majority of lifters involved in this sport want to be somewhat competitive, whatever that means.  For me, I got started in this sport in my early 30s.  I didn’t touch a barbell too often throughout college soccer and MMA after. I did some dumbbell stuff and picked up a trap bar and front squat occasionally.

 

I knew I was well behind the 8 ball for this sport.  However, I set a goal to be more competitive as a masters lifter.  Then I saw that the masters lifters are just as strong as the open lifters, so maybe a competitive M4.  I am kidding here, but by 40 I will only have 7-8 years of training behind me.

 

Dave started powerlifting around the same time as I did.  However, he played college football.  They usually squat and bench with coaches in football.  This usually extends back into high school.  A college football player that gets into powerlifting in their early 20s has 8 years of weight room experience, usually with a barbell, and usually with a coach, before they get started.   I won’t have this experience under the bar until I am 40.

 

With that said, this is why I am not competitive.  If I want to be, I have to do everything right to make up for that lost time.  I have a very high pain tolerance and will train through almost anything.  Not being an asshole, but wisely training through things.  I can make up days here.

 

I can’t afford to allow my negative emotions to give me shitty training days.  Each shitty training day pushes me further behind everyone else.  For every shitty day I have, I know my competition is having a better day.

 

In other sports, I was reacting to an opponent.  You would be analyzing them the whole time, pick up on tendencies, and slowly pick them apart.  When things weren’t going well you could really make the game smaller.  Get rid of the ball faster in soccer to an easier outlet and gain some momentum or go out there and control distance and get a jab working in MMA.

 

In powerlifting it is tough, because the opponent is not the weights, but it is yourself.  This is the toughest opponent you will ever face in your life, because they know every single one of your weaknesses and they will exploit them better than anyone else.

 

Coaches and athletes are always looking for weaknesses within the lifts themselves.  I do feel that this is important, but these are often not the biggest issues that need to be addressed.  Many of these issues can get better from appropriate training.

 

The bigger issue is within each and every individual.  I will set training up as a coach to bring these emotions to the forefront.  I firmly believe in training with consequences and I will make you frustrated at some point.  Some are stronger than others here, but they will all experience it.

 

Each one of these experiences is an opportunity to learn and to face your biggest opponent in this sport, YOU.  You will want to blame the program, the coach, the equipment, and so on.  This isn’t facing your opponent; this is running away.  This is the opponent winning, and you either figure it out, or quit.

 

If you are working with a coach that has had some higher levels of success with lifters over a period of time, it is not the program that is at fault for anything.  I would have never left Sheiko if he did not stop taking distance lifters.

 

I have not hit a PR since I started working with Hartman about a year ago.  This has absolutely nothing to do with him as a coach.  He coaches girls that can’t legally drink that will out lift me.  This all falls on me as an athlete.

 

I was forced to find a new coach and Hartman does things very differently than Sheiko.  I think if I had reached out to Hartman under different circumstances that the transition would have been different.  I wasn’t fully bought in because the situation was forced upon me by circumstance.

 

The switch in program style was very drastic too.  It actually pissed me off at times.  He elicited an emotional response in me for sure.  At times I wanted to put my fist through a wall and the frustration made me hate training at times.

 

It didn’t help that I am coaching at the same time and lifters dumping this same frustration on me too when their training doesn’t fit their ideal picture.  With Sheiko you just did what you are told.  He gave me a little flexibility, but not much at all. I coached in a similar way and the frustration as an athlete and coach was far less at this time due to this.

 

With Hartman, it wasn’t setup to just do as I am told, but I lifted as if it was.  I missed a lot of reps and made some really poor decisions within training.    I would then come in for the next session frustrated and try to get it all back that day and have another shitty day of bad decisions and poor lifting.

 

It took me a while to realize this.  I learned how to apply general principles in training and the technique of the lifts from Sheiko.  This was such an important period of time for me as a coach, more so than an athlete.

 

Hartman, whether it was intentional or not, taught me how to handle my emotions in training.  This allows me to handle the emotions of the lifters I coach.  Hartman forced me to be a better lifter.  I am lucky I had past experiences in other sports that allowed me to improve this very quickly once I recognized it.

 

I took more of a role in my lifting.  I write my own program, but Hartman gives me his insights and thoughts on my decisions. Almost always I take what he says, and I do it as he has much more experience than I do and a more objective view of my lifting.

 

I have not benched over 300lbs in a meet since August of 2017.  For the first time since then, I am confident I can hit that 303lbs bench press on any day, with any grip.  It took 2 years to get to this point for me.  Probably would have been less time with a better attitude.

 

My squat feels the best it has ever felt.  I have had some good runs with squats over the last year that just fizzled out by the time I got to singles or a competition.  Some of this is due to my inconsistency with the technical aspects of the lift.  I am pretty confident that I can chip a PR on the platform right now if I had a meet in a couple weeks.  This weight would be a 3rdI missed due to depth last summer at a competition. It took a year for me to feel like I am back to that number with technique that will hold up under the rules of the sport.

 

My deadlift is weird. It is my strongest lift, but it experiences some big ups and downs.  With Sheiko my deadlift went to 505lbs in my second meet, to 455lbs the next time I tested. It then went to 485lbs a few months later when I tested again.  9 months after I pulled the 505lbs on a deadlift bar, I hit 518lbs in a USAPL meet. I put 15lbs on my best deadlift with tougher equipment in a year, but it just went backwards for a while for me to get there.  Long term progress isn’t too bad here at all.  At the time it seemed terrible, but I wasn’t so worried without a meet scheduled.

 

I missed 545lbs a couple weeks ago, which is about 20lbs behind my best ever meet pull from last summer. It is in my head a little, and this is why I have a coach.  Hartman gave me some ideas, so I threw them into the program.  I know it will come around, I just need to train hard and make good decisions.

 

I had 2 very different programs that yielded very similar results.  No matter what program I would decide to do, this would have been the case because the problem was me and not the program.  Find a coach you can work well with and stick with them while addressing those individual weaknesses we all possess.

 

Take ownership for the things that YOU can do better as lifter.  This includes maintaining bodyweight, sacrificing drinking on weekends, bringing 100% to each training day, and your attitude.

 

If you choose to go out with friends and eat like shit, it is ok to do these things as you got to live life but accept the consequences that comes with these actions.  This sport can fit in your life however you want. World champions aren’t going out every weekend and sulking between sets.

 

My motto right now is “No reps off.”  This includes every rep from the empty bar up through my top sets.  I noticed I was only getting focused once the weight gets heavier.  This was a lot of missed opportunities to get better.  We can always improve our mental and physical attributes.