By Mike Tuchscherer
Each time I sit down to write something, I try to think of what people need to hear. Not always what they want to hear, but what knowledge is needed to move us forward in our training? Lately, I keep coming back to efficiency. Maybe I haven’t done a good job of describing its importance in the past. Maybe a few of you guys still don’t get it. I’m not totally sure, but I do know that there must be a reason why I keep coming back to this topic.
Efficiency in training can mean a lot of things. We could be talking about efficiency of movement where no energy is wasted. We could be talking about energy efficiency, where your energy systems produce ATP in an efficient and reliable manner. We could be talking about training economy, or one of several other specific topics. But the efficiency I’m referring to is workload efficiency.
Workload efficiency is pretty simple in concept. It just means that you reap the benefits of the workload that you put in. So when you go to the gym and squat and your squat improves, then you are training with workload efficiency. The work you put in gets you results. The greater the results you get, the higher your efficiency. Obviously, we all want super-high levels of efficiency. We want each rep that we do to have maximum yield for our contest results. C’mon, who doesn’t like big PR’s, because that’s what we’re talking about!
The formula for workload efficiency is pretty simple. Optimize your training variables and workload efficiency improves. Sounds simple and it is. At that level. It does get harder and the greater efficiency you strive for, the harder it gets. That’s why I tell people to become students of the sport – so they can maximize their gain for the work they put in.
Right about now, you’re probably thinking this is going to be another one of those theory articles where it all sounds great but nothing practical comes from it. And that’s where you’d be wrong because I want to give you some practical tips for improving your workload efficiency.
The first thing you can do to improve workload efficiency is to train with the right weights. Obviously, I’m not talking about iron vs rubber or whatnot. I’m saying if your training objective is to develop high-force output in the lower ranges of motion, then select the appropriate weight to allow you to train that quality. The same goes for development of your ability to strain, or any other specific objective. You must pick the right weight on the bar in order for the desired traits to be developed. If you go too heavy or too light, you’ll miss your objective. And that’s just not efficient.
Another thing you can do (that maybe should have preceded the first item) is to understand your training objectives. Do you need to be more explosive? Do you need to be able to grind out weights? What range of motion do you need this ability? What physiological traits do you need to develop in order to produce more force at your weakest joint angles? I know this seems over the top, but we’re talking about maximizing efficiency. If you don’t know, then as I see it you have two options. First, you can educate yourself about the physiology and what protocols address which pieces. Or you can hire someone who already has such knowledge. In the future, I may develop more material addressing this topic in particular, but it’s really beyond the scope of this article. Understanding meathead physiology is a pretty big topic and then understanding the protocols can take a while.
The third thing you can do to enhance your workload efficiency is to autoregulate your training volumes. Autoregulation is the process we use to let our bodies tell us when it’s had enough work to produce the desired effect. For my athletes, we typically use Fatigue Percents since they provide a wide range of benefits over traditional set controls. It allows us to customize the volume as we go based on how our bodies respond to the stress of the workload. This is a huge step forward to training efficiently and really helps coaches and athletes understand the concepts of stress management as it pertains to training.
And that brings us to the fourth tip for workload efficiency… stress management. All stress is taxing on the body in various ways, and dealing with this stress requires a certain amount of energy. It’s then not hard to see that the more stress you have, the more energy it takes to deal with. The thing is, all of this energy is essentially drawn from the same pool. All of your life stresses (work, training, family, social, chemical, nutritional, etc) all draw from the same pool. If your energy pool runs dry, you’re in bad shape. So managing the stress that you can control will help make sure that you get the most out of your training. A tool such as TRAC is extremely effective at helping athletes deal with stressors because it is sensitive to all types of stress on the body. So you can clearly see when the body is dealing with high stress levels and you can take corrective action. I could go on and on about the benefits of using TRAC over subjective monitoring, but I’ll save that for another time. For now, as an athlete who has tried them both, just understand that TRAC is a very powerful tool and I would much rather use it than my own subjectivity.
And the fifth tip for improving workload efficiency is belief. You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. This means different things for different people. For me personally, I know I tend to be an analytical type, so that means I need to understand cognitively a good portion of why I’m doing something before I can put my belief in it. If I don’t know what I’m doing, then it’s hard for me to believe in it because I know how easy it would be for me to be wrong. Maybe this sounds like some hippy mumbo-jumbo, but it certainly isn’t. Top sports psychologists will gladly lecture you on the powers of human thought and the difference belief makes in a person. So if I can’t believe in a particular aspect of what I’m doing, I need to find a way that I can. If we’re talking training, maybe I get some help with it. If we’re talking technique, I can get some help with that too. But if we’re talking about self-esteem or something of that nature… there is help that can be gained there as well, but the answer really lies within yourself because that’s where the problem began in the first place!
Take each of these five tips and put them in place in your own training. Utilize them well and really put some effort into getting it right. Once you do that, I think you’ll find that the gains you make will surprise even yourself. Efficiency may not sound hardcore, but it’s critically important to a successful training plan. And I’d take an effective training plan over “hardcore” any day.
|About the Author
Mike Tuchscherer is the owner and head coach at RTS. He has been powerlifting since 2001 and since has traveled all over the world for competitions. In 2009, he was the first man from USA powerlifting to win a gold medal at the World Games – the highest possible achievement in powerlifting. He has coached over a dozen competitors at the world championships, a score of national champions, and multiple world record holders.