Questions related to Training
July 31, 2019 at 8:34 pm #2311
Please post your questions related to training here.
July 31, 2019 at 10:21 pm #2313Tom ElderParticipant
Currently my training quite loosely corresponds to the program. I do the prescribed exercises, but I often push weights past the prescribed amount, and this is with your supervision and approval. I understand that variation in training performance day to day is to be expected. I also understand the program is shaped with a goal in mind.
If the program is designed to produce an improvement in strength at some point in the future, is it detrimental to that goal to push above prescribed weights? Or should I rather stick to the numbers and “let the program do the work” so to speak?
August 1, 2019 at 3:20 am #2314
Hi Tom, Thank you very much for posting this important question. This question, in one form or another, is asked quite frequently and the enquirer often cites confusion as to why there is often a significant discrepancy between ‘what the program the program says’ and what actually transpires in a coached training session.
Written training programs have strengths and weaknesses. The strengths of a written training program is that it provides a basic framework around which training is constructed e.g. the exercises, the order of exercises, the workload, etc. The training program gives a sense of direction and purpose and it works to prevent athletes from adopting practises that might be unhelpful or injurious. However, it is important to educate athletes about inherent weaknesses in the written training program. In particular, at the time of writing, the program author can never accurately predict the state of the athlete’s wellbeing on any given day. So many factors can potentially intervene to change the training needs of the athlete. For example, on any given day, the athlete could be adversely affected by injuries, illness, work related stress, shortage of time, inability to attend training, nutrition during the day, muscle soreness, failure to recover from fatigue and a lacklustre training environment. Equally, the athlete may be positively affected by being on vacation, improved nutrition, a new training partner, a more settled work situation, improved sleep, better training weather and a vibrant training environment.
So, what is the author of the program to do in the face of an inability to know how the athlete will adapt to the training prescribed by the program? The only prudent strategy is to prescribe a training load that should be obtainable on most days given the fluctuation of adverse and positive factors that will affect training. In short, the training program undershoots what might be the optimal training load. It works better this way, physiologically and psychologically. The alternative is to write a harder training program with risks that the athlete will suffer failure on a regular basis due to the above mentioned factors.
I think you would agree that it is better for the athlete’s confidence to be bolstered because they frequently do better than the program, than to suffer a diminishment of confidence because they fail to live up to the program frequently, and suffer injuries trying to do so.
But here’s a thing! In my experience good athletes are always willing to do more than the program and it is the coach’s job to hold the reins and pull them back sometimes. Not such good athletes tend to just do ‘what the program said’ and often resist encouragement to go beyond, or do so only begrudgingly.
But often the confusion is not so much about the training process but the coaching process. It is a key task of the coach to observe the athlete perform in training and to determine the limits of their ability on any given day. What the coach observes is the freedom with which the athlete moves, their wellness and their mood, and as a result is constantly adjusting the appropriate limit for their training load, on each exercise. The coach has a cursory knowledge of the training program without needing to look at it because much of the training load is governed by the number of weeks before next competition, and the day of the week. But in recent times, I have started to colour code training programs and this helps both the athlete and the coach know whether to ‘push’ beyond the training prescription. For example, if the training session is colour coded GREEN, it means stay light and easy, and don’t push. If the session is BLUE, it means work hard and push if you are not struggling.
Lastly, you used the word STRENGTH in your question and I think this was in relation to your squats. These days, I am reluctant to use the word strength. I think it conjures up old-fashioned ideas about what Weightlifting training is about. Instead of thinking the training program is designed to produce an improvement in strength, think instead the training program is designed to produce an improvement in PERFORMANCE. Over the years I have seen so many athlete bash away with heavy squats, trying really hard to improve their ‘strength’ in the hope that it flows through to their lifts. You know the type of athlete that regularly struggles to grind out of heavy squats. But then I see other athletes, who squat in a variety of ways, and often at sub-maximal intensities, and develop marvellous freedom of movement in the squat. Usually you don’t see them struggle very often, and when they attempt personal bests now and then, they seem to rise without any sticking point. YES, of course, the ability of a muscle to contract against a resistance is important but in the squat movement there are many muscles contributing to the action. You have seen those well-muscled individuals who seem to struggle and sweat profusely when they are caused to learn weightlifting, and yet you might see an experienced athlete, of half the bodyweight, move the same weight effortlessly and easily. These days therefore, I place much more importance on CO-ORDINATION and this means brain activity. At your stage of development, your brain is very much learning how to send signals in a coordinated way to your body.
August 1, 2019 at 2:03 pm #2315k.wittichParticipant
I had also been wondering about the interplay (if any)between auto regulation and percentage based programming. recently, I have been ‘going by feel’ (aka auto regulating) when returning to lifting after some knee hassles. At first, I wasn’t too confident to train without the psychological safety net of percentages. when I couple this experience with the answer above, I can see that adding more auto regulated sets and reps will be a good thing and help me to take advantage of the good days and minimise the inefficiency of bad days.
August 2, 2019 at 8:56 am #2316
Hi Ky, Thanks for your question. Auto-regulation or self-regulation is an important but not widely understood concept in coaching. For those who might read this post, auto-regulation might be defined as the ability of the athlete to regulate their own training rather than be dependent on the coach to give directions. Of course, for each and every athlete, auto-regulation lies on a continuum between total control by the coach and total control by the athlete of their own training agenda. In the initial stages of learning Weightlifting, the athlete is highly dependent on the coach. However, within 3 years perhaps, the athlete should be able to pursue their training with considerably less direction from the coach. Then if an athlete has 10 years training experience, and has reached a high level of performance, they may largely be expected to self-regulate including taking responsibility for the development of their own training program.
But what and how does the athlete self-regulate? Here are some examples:
- The athlete, detecting that their wrist is sore, make a decision NOT to do overhead work in that session.
- The athlete, detecting that they are struggling with the suggested target intensity, drops back in weight and successfully performs further sets.
- the athlete, feeling that they have time, energy and motivation, decides to do more sets on the prescribed exercise
- the athlete, detecting significant stiffness in the legs from heavy training, decides to perform Power Snatch instead of full Snatch
- The athlete, feeling really good about their technique and strength on the day, pushes above the intensity prescribed by the training program
Many readers will recognise the above and say “I do this” and feel they are already demonstrating auto-regulation. This may be true to some extent but from the coach’s perspective athletes demonstrate differing levels of success in achieving auto-regulation. Here are some types of failure in auto-regulation.
- the athlete attempts to push higher than the prescribed intensity on most training days, essentially “testing their strength” in almost every session, even on days where training is supposed to be deliberately light.
- the athlete frequently ignores signs of fatigue and soreness and tries to achieve target percentages irregardless of how they feel, thinking that the magic of the training program is all in the numbers.
- The athlete just does the number of sets prescribed by the training program and hardly ever puts in extra work unless directed to do so by the coach
It should be the goal of the coach to teach athletes how to self regulate (‘going by feel’ as you described it). It takes time but even if an athlete has less than once year’s Weightlifting experience, a small degree of auto-regulation is a very good thing. It augurs well for the individual if they can. As a coach I might expect less auto-regulation from a young athlete but a senior athlete who has other types of sporting experience, and has received coaching in other sports, may be able to auto-regulate sooner.
As a coach, my task involves observing athletes and this doesn’t just mean I look at their technique. I am constantly appraising the athlete’s physical state, their motivation and interest in training, and signs of learning and auto-regulation. I start to get excited when I see athletes take full advantage of days when they are energetic, moving well and time rich, and pull back on the training load on days when the body is not cooperating well. But my final word of warning is that taking advantage of good days doesn’t always mean push to maximum, far from it. Taking advantage can also mean getting extra quality work done, extending the number of sets per exercise, really working hard on technique, speed and flexibility, and finding time to do warm-up and technical drills often missed.
- This reply was modified 2 years, 4 months ago by Lionel.
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