Trust the Process.
These are three words that I am constantly repeating to my powerlifting athletes. Getting stronger is about the accumulation of training, and not one single effort in the gym.
All too often, athletes want to go off of the program and lift heavier on a given day. This may be because the weights feel light or too easy. It may also be to impress the Instagram followers, who knows.
However, when an athlete goes off of the program without the coach, that is nothing more than mental weakness.
You do not need to lift heavier that day to get stronger, unless the coach feels it is ok.
Trust the process and follow the program.
I trained with one of my athletes, Kerry, on the Friday before I left for Mexico. I have been working with Kerry for a little over 6 months now. Kerry is strong as shit and works as hard as anyone in the gym. This is on top of working full time and finishing up a graduate degree. If she doesn’t make excuses neither should you.
The coach/lifter relationship is very symbiotic. There needs to be the appropriate balance of all variables for the relationship to be beneficial. These variables include both psychological and physical aspects. This takes time to figure out.
The problem with trust, is it must be earned.
This can be difficult at times.
Kerry competed back in February. This was her first meet with me as her coach. She was already qualified for nationals so this meet was just for getting used to competing.
I also wanted to get an idea of how Kerry responded on competition day.
Kerry had an average day on the platform going 6/9.
The problem was with her deadlift.
She had pulled 336lbs at a meet the previous May.
When she came back she had taken a little bit of time away from powerlifting.
During this block she traveled a lot and tweaked her hamstring.
We really did not train the deadlift too much. These were not the reasons why her deadlift was only 285lbs on meet day.
Her technique was very poor. Her technique was very poor on the 336lbs, but the weight went up that day.
You can only play with bad positions for so long before performance slides backwards and the risk of injury increases.
This was very discouraging for Kerry, as it would have been for any athlete. I would have been upset myself in this situation.
I told Kerry after the meet that we were dropping her training max on the deadlift from 336lbs to 305lbs, what she had lifted successfully during her test. This again is very discouraging to an athlete. Most athletes will think “How can I get stronger lifting less weight?”
My answer was again, trust the process.
Kerry has some great training partners that have been coached by me for a while and they were explain the same thing. Danielle, has been with me for 2 years and was constantly backing me up on this. This was very important to Kerry’s success.
Do not devalue great training partners, this could be a whole other article.
For the next 12 weeks we used a lower training max and really drilled technique. The most that Kerry took from the floor on a deadlift during this block was 245lbs and that was only one time.
- If we were pulling heavier, we did it from blocks.
- We utilized chains and bands to overload the weight.
- She lost position at the bottom of the lift and I did not want that part of the lift to be too heavy that it even caused the slightest breakdown in technique.
We worked on deficits, deadlifts to the knees only, deadlifts with pauses below the knees, and deadlift + deadlift below the knees.
Any rep that she got out of position I made her standup and start over. Although, Kerry never showed any signs of frustration I knew she was frustrated.
However, she put 100% effort into every rep and did her best to trust the process.
The Friday before I left for Mexico, April 28th, was the first day I saw Kerry that week.
She was my training partner at noon. She said she lacked sleep and hadn’t eaten much all week due to a conference at work.
This was not a big deal to me as she hadn’t trained all week.
Also, lifting is our sport.
At some times you need to suck it up buttercup and do the necessary work.
This is one reason I am not a fan of auto-regulation (there are times that I will go off of the books and that is coming). It gives athletes a way out when they feel a bit tired. The rep schemes we use are very low and leave multiple reps in the tank.
This comes from the Sheiko influence on me.
Even under less than optimal circumstances athletes can hit these numbers no problem. If you have a different program where the reps are getting you closer to failure than auto-regulation may be appropriate.
We are working on eliminating the pitch forward out of the hole on the squat so we started with pin squats at 90% for some singles.
This was followed up by 3 sets of 2 at 80%.
Putting what the pins taught us into practice.
After squats we did 4 sets of 2 at 85% on the bench.
Then it was time to deadlift.
I decided on 80% as a working weight for the sets.
Upon watching her pull, I saw that it looked very good at 80%.
I knew she was lacking confidence in the deadlift and that she needed a psychological boost. I asked her if she wanted to go after it on the deadlift. Of course she said yes.
There was a caveat, it had to look good for every rep. I would not let her pull the weight if it looked like it did at the meet. She needed to show me that she could be patient off of the floor and maintain her positions.
She said ok (she never tells me no it is great).
She worked up to the weight that she missed at the meet. She displayed patience off of the floor and once the weight started moving it kept accelerating to lockout.
She put the bar down and stated “There was no sticking point!”
You see, when we round our back like Kerry did at her meet, we will have a sticking point at the thighs.
When we are in a good position, the weight will be more difficult to get moving, but once it does it should pop right up.
She finally experienced a good technical pull under heavy weight.
This built her confidence.
She ended up hitting 325lbs with only a slight loss of position and she had more in the tank.
We decided to shut it down there and end on a positive note.
Her deadlift was back to where it was when she set the Massachusetts state record.
This deadlift was performed after heavy squats and bench as well. This gives me confidence that she can hit this weight at a meet.
Even though this was not programmed for her it was very important to her psychological state.
Having her confidence back will allow her to attack training in a better way.
It also gets her excited to lift at her meet in August.
Knowing you are 3 months out and you hit a deadlift that is over 30lbs heavier than your meet a couple of months ago will give you quite the competitive boost.
This also allowed Kerry to build more trust in the program.
Not that she didn’t have faith it would work, but it makes it a lot easier to trust the program when you finally experience a big breakthrough.
This also helps solidify the coach/athlete relationship as we move forward.
All important steps in the long term process of being a strength athlete.
Written By: Kevin Cann
© totalperformancesports.com May 2017