Written By: Edward Baker
Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more articles circulating that are encouraging athletes to do more; some in regard to increasing the training load, others to go to heavy singles on the lifts on a regular basis. As a lifter whose modest career was almost ended by training with this mentality, I feel compelled to urge some of you that more isn’t necessarily better. I strongly believe that instead, an optimum load should be sought.
My senior year of high school, my old weightlifting coach started all of his lifters on heavy singles in the lifts multiple times a week, as well as squatting about everyday. After the first week, I was hardly hitting 85% of my best lifts, and my patellar tendonitis had flared up to where bending down to grab the barbell would hurt. No matter how much I warmed up and no matter how many anti-inflammatories I took, the pain wouldn’t go away.
I’ve read justifications for training this way, from general ones like “the Europeans do it”, to descriptive hypotheses suggesting that this way of training caused DNA to encode RNAs differently, and consequently proteins were synthesized in a more optimal form. For the past 3 years I’ve been under the tutelage of John Coffee, who is a proponent of the classic linear periodization scheme, and a believer in building strength and muscle in a ‘preparatory’ phase through the means of more repetitions and assistance exercises. There may be something to be said for training this way in order to properly construct the neurological pathways, so that the kinetic and dynamic parameters of the lifts are correct.
Most American lifters (and/or CrossFitters) don’t have the years of backlog that our weightlifting counterparts around the world do in performing the snatch and clean & jerk, so it might be worth doing so to encourage the right biomechanics of the lifts.I only perform squats once per week (front, back, and squat jerks all in the same day), snatch 4 times a week (only going heavy 1 out of those 4 times) and clean and jerk twice a week (power cleans one day, clean and jerks the other) with pulls at sub-maximum weights and various remedials throughout the week. (This may not be enough for a lot of you, but it leads to my point.) I’ve progressed substantially more with this way of training compared to when I was squatting and performing heavy singles on the lifts about everyday.
I’m not trying to say that my old training approach is wrong, in fact some lifters in this country have great success with this way of training (I believe my friend Ian Wilson trains this way.) It was simply the wrong training approach for me, and it’s the wrong training approach for individuals that don’t have the years of backlog performing the movements. It’s the wrong approach for individuals who are not in an ideal training situation (working a full-time job, not getting enough sleep, being a full-time student, etc.), and it’s the wrong approach for those whose body just doesn’t demonstrate the capability to recover from the stimulus (which can lead to injury). In Arkady Vorobyev’s A Textbook on Weightlifting he writes “It is extremely important to locate for every lifter not the limit volume of load, but the optimum volume, giving the greatest effect in the attainment of sporting results.” Whether you’re an athlete or an aspiring coach, give these sentiments a thought.