So this month I wasn’t sure what the hell to write about….I can rant on and on about a variety of subjects but I feel like I probably should have an ACTUAL MESSAGE or pass on my actual knowledge from experience (not that there is much of that, let’s be real here).
However, I started thinking about trends in powerlifting and some of the fad movements/ideas I see start to waft through the community, and decided this month I would discuss coaching, and when and how to go about getting one when the time is right.
This may seem elemental, but lately I have seen a small movement of people eschewing formal coaching, knowledge, and education in how powerlifting programming works, and a push instead to “teach thyself” and “learn through trial and error”, as well as the usual occurrence of those new to powerlifting counting on random friends or cobbled-together shit they find online because they don’t want to pay for programming, or are not sure how to go about it. Essentially, though, this month I tell you:
SOMETIMES YOU NEED A COACH, DIPSHIT.
So, when I started powerlifting like 5-6 years ago, I had no clue what I was doing.
I searched online, and realized everyone was setting “programming” off their “maxes”.
I figured I better find my maxes and then start trying to figure out what to do. My squat max of 200 was 3 inches high and shaky like a baby giraffe, my bench max of 170 was flat-backed, legs dangling and loose, and my deadlift I was barely holding in my hands, and was a paltry 245.
So now I had my maxes, what was next?
I started google searching BASIC powerlifting programs, ones easily found online, standards as far as I could tell at the time…..and I ended up with Wendler’s 5/3/1 (which by the way is a tried-and-true, simple to understand and create program which ALSO holds up over time). For the beginner just feeling shit out, and trying to understand the logic behind “peaking” and powerlifting programming, I recommend it highly. It gets you familiar with linear periodization, peaking to a max by increasing weight and dropping reps over time, and the idea of “percentages”. It’s pretty legit.
However, after a while I realized I needed to expand my base, as it addressed the “Big 3” lifts but not as much accessory work (a later 5/3/1 expansion does do this however), why and how it is used effectively to increase strength of weak areas.
That’s when I started to look at formalized programming, and acquiring coaches.
My first coach was someone who lifted with me, brought me into the field, and advised and taught me basics as we went along. He blended several methods to get me started, and I, like most new lifters, got PR after PR. (It is very easy to improve exponentially early in your powerlifting career, but gets sooooo much harder as you get near your beginner maxes, by that I mean the first few years where new muscle growth, practice, and technique refinement give steadily increasing PR’s).
I think coaching is incredibly important in general, but especially at the BEGINNING of your career to get your form, knowledge of what programming is, how it generally works, and WHY, up to par, then ALSO as you start to reach natural plateaus. I have had several coaches, and I have taken very important things from all the methods that they taught.
I have had NO BAD COACHING.
It has all increased my knowledge base and understanding of the sport. And I recommend not just swallowing the program you are given whole, but to ASK QUESTIONS.
Why am I doing this accessory for this lift?
What does this accessory do?
What weakness are you targeting?
Why are we using this set and rep scheme?
Why am I pairing these body parts together for training on this day?
What is a deload and what does it do?
When do I know I need one?
Why are heavy days arranged through the week this way?
What does heavy versus light weight offer?
Stuff like this, and more.
I want to know WHY AND HOW the programming works, so one day I can adapt and do it myself if needed.
If nothing else I want to learn MYSELF, how my body responds, and have valuable input for any future coach. If I was a brain surgeon, I would not just get out my booklet of drawings and instructions to hack into someone’s skull, I would want to learn the anatomy, the tools of the trade, how to use them, and to adapt to unexpected events and needs that arise during the process.
You get the point.
For fucks sake don’t pick some random dude/chick off Instagram that looks swole and offers a cookie-cutter program to “the next 50 applicants for 40% off”.
Don’t pick this guy off of Instagram!RESEARCH!
Talk to lifting friends you admire or who put up good numbers to see who they have used. Programs, like everything in this society, come up out of nowhere and are fads for a while, then a new one comes along and everyone jumps.
See which programs have been around for years.
Those are likely to have something universally effective, and are likely to “work” in general. Remember, not everyone is the same.
Some methods may be great, but not work for you…..but generally you are more likely to have success with an established program that has stood the test of time.
Once you contact a coach, you want one who checks in with you frequently, wants vids of lifts, gives timely feedback, and who DOES NOT COOKIE CUTTER YOU. They need to be able to drop or add things that might work better FOR YOU SPECIFICALLY based on your performance, how you are feeling that week, history of injury, supplements you might be one, etc.
If your coach is not asking you about your lifting and injury history, your general diet, what equipment you have access to at your gym, fluid intake, how you have trained in past, what you tend to respond to or not respond to, as well as your goals, then you are with the wrong guy/gal.
Can you program yourself?
But when I do, I tend to have blinders on and revert to past bad behavior, i.e., overtraining, and to linear periodization that moves at snail jumps and lacks effectiveness and efficiency. Plus, I am often incorrect about where I am actually weak, and strong, both in training and in muscle size/use.
Holy fuck I am not sure any of this was fucking useful. I basically just stream-of-consciousness ranted at you with a whole slew of my opinions.
Take what you want from it, toss the rest. Basically, I feel ALL POWERLIFTERS SHOULD HAVE A COACH AT SOME POINT. It gives you an outside look into your lifting, fresh eyes, and is ALWAYS helpful in some way.
That’s it guys.
Now go fucking lift.
By Stephanie Tomlinson.
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