Choosing Sets-n-Reps; A Guide to Protocol Selection

DSC01145Choosing Sets-n-Reps; A Guide to Protocol Selection

By Mike Tuchscherer

For those familiar with the Reactive Training Manual, you have surely noticed the multiple times in the book that selecting protocols is mentioned, but in terms of guidance, you are given two lists. Choose from list one during your volume block and list two during your intensity block. Beyond that, you’re told to choose randomly. Read more…

Competing Well

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Competing Well
By Mike Tuchscherer

As I’m writing this, I’m preparing for the Raw Unity meet for 2010. I was thinking about the coming contest and its possibilities. As with so many other meets I’ve done, I realized that it will come down to who makes more lifts.
You see, the winner of a powerlifting meet is not necessarily the strongest lifter; it’s the person who competes best. This seems to be the same thing, but let me explain for a moment. Read more…

The Seven Principles and You

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The Seven Principles and You
By Mike Tuchscherer

Training discussions often turn to which method or program is the best. And there are a lot of programs out there, too. So deciding which one can generate progress can sometimes be a daunting task. And even if it’s not that bad for you, figuring out how to apply it, or if there is a better way can be a challenge even to seasoned coaches.
The thing is whenever we evaluate programs to decide how good they are, we can always come back to the Seven Fundamental Principles to help point us in the right direction. These aren’t the only principles and they also aren’t always applied equally, but we can use it as a yardstick of sorts to measure programs. I didn’t invent these principles – they are based in scientific observation collected over the last 60+ years.
What I would like to do is go through each principle, discuss it, and also show you some practical application for it. If you think this is too elementary for you, then you aren’t looking deep enough.

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Fatigue Percents Revisited

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Fatigue Percents Revisited
By Mike Tuchscherer

In the RTS Manual, I introduced Fatigue Percents as a reliable, effective way to autoregulate volume based on stress. In the Seminar DVD, I discussed them in more detail and outlined several more dynamic examples on how to use them. Today, I want to outline some different ways that you can use fatigue percents to effectively control your training volumes for other various training effects.

Down to the essentials
At the most fundamental level, a fatigue percent is simply trying to measure how tired you’ve gotten. If you’re familiar with the principles of RTS, you’re aware that it is possible to reasonably estimate a 1RM on most sets given the load, number of reps, and RPE of the set. If we watch how this estimated 1RM behaves from set to set, we can easily see when fatigue begins to creep in.

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Passive Restoration

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Passive Restoration
by Mike Tuchscherer

We all know that training is stressful. And most of us understand that it’s not the stress of training itself, but rather the recovery from that stress that produces the gains that we all work so hard to achieve.
Recent research is showing some very interesting trends. It seems that the more often a muscle is stressed, the greater the aggregate gain becomes. So do you want big gains quickly? Most of us do. Then research suggests that you train more frequently.  Read more…

All About Intensity

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All About Intensity
Mike Tuchscherer

Training intensity gets more press than training volume, but most of the time it just scratches the surface of the discussion. If you do more than the minimum amount of reading on the topic of training, you no doubt know that “Intensity” does not refer to the amount of emotional excitement you feel during your training, but rather the weight on the bar. You also probably know that intensity is often referred to as a percentage of your 1 rep max. But that’s about all the knowledge most guys have on the subject.

Why Percentages?
It’s true that Intensity is not the level of emotional excitement, but instead it refers to the weight on the bar. To be specific, absolute intensity refers to the absolute amount of weight on the bar, most often measured in pounds or kilograms. When people start talking about percentages, they are talking about relative intensity. This is most often a description of intensity relative to your 1 rep max.
At first the percentages might seem unnecessarily complicated, but they are actually very useful. They allow us to talk about training with one another and easily understand the loading parameters that are being discussed without asking a lot of background questions. The percentages themselves might seem a bit awkward at first, but that goes away with familiarity.

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Eccentric Training to Rehab Tendinopathy: An Experience Report

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An Experience Report: Eccentric Training to Rehab Tendinopathy
By Bernhard Klinger

I was pushing my training hard for an upcoming competition and about three weeks out I started to feel a slight twinge in my right hamstring during heavy deadlifts – nothing too bad, just a minor uncomfortable sensation.

The competition went very well and afterwards I thought I’d just take it easy for a few weeks to let things heal up – but I was wrong. Even though I only had slight discomfort performing my lifts at the competition and I took some time off afterwards the hamstring started feeling worse and worse and what once was a little twinge had turned into a sharp, stabbing pain at the origin of my hamstring. In less than 2 weeks my injury became so bad that it was causing pain during everyday activities – so I knew I had to seek out professional help.

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Sacroiliac Dysfunction: Gainz Not Painz

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Gainz not Painz: Sacroiliac Dysfunction (low back, hip, inner thigh pain)
by Jake Noel

I usually hear one of two stories when I’m working with someone suffering from S/I dysfunction (Sacroiliac dysfunction). The first story goes something like this, I went to rip a deadlift off the floor (or hit a heavy squat) and I felt my back round slightly. Then, my low back and butt cheek started to hurt.” I also hear of pain in the groin and sometimes hip flexors / front hip, either way something happens to the lifter that causes pain . The other story I often hear is “I have no clue what I did. I’ve just been getting more and more pain in my back and hips and groin and my numbers have stalled for, like, no reason.” In either case, the lifter is likely dealing with differing forms of S/I imbalance; the former being the acute case, the latter being the chronic, slow burn into imbalance caused by a slew of issues ranging from  sleeping position to “overtraining”.

The reason my very first article for RTS is about S/I dysfunction is because 8 out of 10 of the lifters I work with have developed some form of S/I imbalance (in my anecdotal observation).  Approximately 100% of lifters could benefit from this article  assuming they’re going to encounter S/I imbalance at some point because in the sport of Powerlifting.. The S/I is really the whole boat when it comes to bearing load in the squat and deadlift (assuming you’re executing the movements with even the slightest technical proficiency).  In fact, S/I imbalance is so common in the sport, that it is safe to treat yourself like you have it,  even if you’re not expressing the symptoms yet.

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Project Momentum

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In January 2016, RTS issued a free experimental training program to anyone who signed up.  It was called Project Momentum.  At the outset, we were pretty sure the protocol would work, but we had no idea how well or for whom.  It worked better than expected.  This article is an attempt to digest some of the information, learn some lessons, and become better coaches and lifters in the process.

Why did I write this?  Well, a cursory view of the statistics showed that the training worked.  So why did I spend a huge amount of time crunching all these other numbers?  Initially it was because I wanted to know what type of lifter was best suited for this type of training strategy.  But what I ended up learning was much more about how to tailor strategies for all my lifters, whether they are suited for this particular strategy or not.  I also gained some statistical backing for some things I’ve had a feeling about for a while now (i.e. the importance of the subjective TRAC questions, etc).

A quick word on the limitation of it being an online, self-report project… Yes, this is a limitation in the sense of us trying to learn biological truths.  But I coach people in an online setting, so this is actually much closer to applicable information than it would have been had I walked each individual through the training in person.  You can read more about the limitations in the dedicated section near the end.

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The Training Program

Project Momentum was based on a high frequency model.  Each of the four training sessions per week consisted of all three powerlifting style competition movements.  In addition, each day also had emphasis items that added additional volume or intensity to some of the lifts.  Sometimes it was via heavy singles in the competitive lifts.  Other times it was via assistance or supplemental lifts.

The assistance and supplemental lifts were chosen based on where the majority of raw lifters show weaknesses.  Also factored into the decisions was equipment availability.  Since this program was executed in a decentralized way with varying gym equipment, we limited our exercise selection to only the most commonly available pieces for Powerlifters.  If a lifter could not perform one of the lifts for any reason, substitutions were recommended by the coaching staff via the Project Momentum Facebook group.

There was an overall linearity in the periodization of the mesocycle.  The beginning of the training was at a higher volume and lower intensity than the end of the training.  The training mesocycle spanned seven loading weeks, plus one “meet week” where the athletes tapered and then performed a practice competition.

Including the written program in its entirety probably wouldn’t work in this article due to the length, but for the sake of understanding, I’ve included a sample training week below.  This is the third week of the loading block:

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A Case Against Specificity

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Pendulums swing to and fro. That’s what pendulums do. I see another pendulum swinging lately and this one has to do with exercise specificity. Not long ago, the pendulum was as far away from specificity as it gets. Lots of lifters and popular writers talked about what assistance exercises drove their lifts the most. In powerlifting, you had guys who never actually trained the contest lifts, yet did all manner of other lifts with varying degrees of non-specificity. I’ll admit that at one time I bought into this, but I’m happy to say I was impressionable at the time and have since grown out of it.

Contrast that with what we see growing in popularity over the last couple of years. There has been a resurgent popularity in the SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands). By in large I would say this is a very good thing, but like all things it can be taken too far. Some lifters are even ahead of this current trend and train only in hyper-specific ways (for example, ONLY perform their contest lifts and perform them using extreme loads at all times). The pendulum is swinging in this direction more, so I expect this to grow even more in popularity before it stops.

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