Training: More is not always better

Training isn’t everything…


But…let’s rewind for a moment


Most of us know we need to train really hard in order to get stronger. That’s not news to anyone. But for some reason, it seems like a constant theme I keep seeing in my coaching practice (and in myself) is this mentality of ‘more is better’. 

Let me know if this sounds familiar to you.

You look on social media, you see your competitors posting their lifts and you think…I must do more. You then ignore all other guardrails you’ve set for yourself and train harder. But, then suddenly, you realize that this level of training isn’t sustainable. You might be feeling beat up, washed out, or just thinking of quitting. That only then fuels your frustrations when you see the highlight reel of your competition.

I get it. I can relate. 

A few years ago, I was working part-time for Reactive Training Systems and working full-time in the corporate world. I was a leader in that organization and put in some pretty long hours. I also have a wife and three kids. From time to time, I would pick up side personal training jobs too. I slept 4-6 hours a night and consumed more caffeine than anyone should. But, I still trained hard and thought I could out-train my lifestyle. And…..I was wrong. 

What I failed to see was that I was neglecting all of the other inputs that drive my outcomes from training.

Ross Leppala said it best on a podcast I did with him a few months ago: “You don’t get stronger from training, you get stronger from recovering from training.”

Thankfully, I had an awesome coach/mentor (Mike Tuchscherer) who encouraged me to pull back on training a bit. This was after having some aches and pains and an overall downward trend in performance and mental resilience.


“You don’t get stronger from training, you get stronger from recovering from training.”


I have to admit, I thought “Am I going to lose my gains?”

Nope. Didn’t happen. In fact, reducing my training from 4 days to 3 days a week actually made me stronger. I said that right…I got stronger by doing less. I wasn’t ‘burning the candle’ at both ends trying to out-train my lifestyle.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting you cut your workouts short, skip your accessories, sit on the couch and THINK about getting stronger, and somehow, magically, you’ll get stronger. That’s just not the case. 

At the same time, sometimes LESS is MORE. Remember, BETTER is BETTER.

My training sessions were shorter, more intense, and certainly more focused. Sure, I had to make some concessions about how many movements I could do in a week (Curls got the ax? Nope! There is always time for curls just like there is always room for dessert). 

I’ve changed the way I think about training stress balance over the past few years. Instead, of just thinking about how much training I can do, I’ve been reflecting more on how I can control all of the inputs of my life to improve my training satisfaction. 

Here is a self-assessment that I take every so often and encourage my lifters to do as well:


Be Honest

Be honest with yourself about what’s going on in your life. Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • Am I happy with the balance in my life? Think about the mental, emotional, social, and physical domains of your life. 
  • Am I keeping up with life’s demands? Be honest.
  • Can I sustain this level of training over the next month, 6 months, or year? If not, am I only doing it for a short period of time to peak into an important competition? Do I plan to have a period of letting training ‘cool down’ after a competition? 
  • Do I psychologically ‘bring it’ to each training session or am I ‘going through the motions’ or dreading being there?
  • Is training still enjoyable for me? 
  • Am I able to recognize the difference between a down ‘session’ and a ‘downward trendline’ in my performance? 


Be in Control

You get to decide on how you spend your time and mental effort. Shift your mindset to what YOU have control over. That includes setting boundaries with other people and with yourself. A few questions to ask yourself:

  • How much sleep am I really getting? Would I be more recovered for training if I went to bed earlier? Am I willing to say ‘No’ to some things to say ‘Yes’ to sleep?  
  • Am I fueling my body with the right foods to make training effective? Am I being thoughtful about my nutrition? Does my intake of alcohol impact my recovery or training readiness?
  • Do I have a social support system? Am I getting in enough socialization time? That can include time in a gym or outside of the gym. 
  • Do I regularly use stress management techniques? 
  • Am I taking personal responsibility for my recovery?


Be You

While comparing yourself to your competitors can help increase performance, it can also lead to negative emotions. Here are a few self-assessment questions to see if your comparisons are self-defeating:

  • Am I feeling negative emotions when I look at my competitors on social media?
  • Do I often have negative feelings about my self-worth while I’m training?
  • Am I aware of my ‘why’ behind training, competing, etc?
  • If competitions stopped tomorrow, would I still lift weights and to be as strong as I could be?
  • What will my legacy be in this sport?


Remember, training is only one input that drives outcomes. Don’t neglect the importance of sleep, nutrition, mindset, and stress management. Their influence has a tremendous impact on your progress. If you want to get the most out of your training (who doesn’t) then you owe it to yourself to take these other inputs just as seriously as the next time you get under the bar.

John Garafano

RTS Coach


John joined RTS as an assistant coach in 2018. Prior to that, he coached athletes through Strength is Life, LLC. which specialized in working with powerlifters and bodybuilders. He has worked with athletes at the local, state, regional, and national level from Collegiate to Masters 3. He also competes in USA powerlifting as a 74kg lifter, is a professional natural bodybuilder in the NGA, DFAC, and ANBF, and serves on the board of the ANBF as a drug test advisor. 


Training with Gym Closures

by Mike Tuchscherer, 16 March 2020

With many gyms around the world now closing for the next several weeks due to COVID-19, we’ve had several of our lifters suddenly without a place to train. Over the last few years, I’ve often found myself on the road for various reasons also without a training facility — just making due with what I could carry in a suitcase and do in a hotel room. In the case of my move a few years ago, I kept this up for basically a couple of months. While this isn’t the same thing as what lifters are facing now, I do feel it’s given me perspective on what a powerlifter could do in a situation like this to make sure this bump-in-the-road has minimal impact.

Read more…

Home Gym on a Budget

By John Garafano, 16 March 2020

While it may be great to have an expensive power rack with lots of add-ons, various specialty bars, and numerous name-brand machines in your home gym, the fact is that many people have built their elite-level strength on very minimal equipment setup. Try to resist the urge when first putting together a home gym to want to buy ‘everything’ and ‘the best’. Just know that over time, you can build your home gym up while you collect equipment (and pay less since you can buy used or take advantage of yearly sales). If you are a powerlifter, you can get by on this minimal setup:

Read more…

Optimize Your Training Paradigm to Optimize Gains

By Mark Robb 02 February 2019

In the quest for strength, it seems that I (we) sometimes lose sight of the big picture, and the importance of various factors unconsciously shifts, without notice. This may not be an issue for some, but I think that I can safely theorize that anyone that is goal driven, that has numbers in mind, is susceptible to what I’m about to explain. If you’re a competitive athlete, this probably includes you.

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Log Your Training!

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by Mike Tuchscherer, 14 December  2017

Back in 2008, we had a training log app on the RTS website.  For many reasons we had to shut it down and rebuild it.  We relaunched it in 2016 and have been packing it with features ever since.  What’s more, it’s free for anyone to use with any style of training you want.

Read more…

Fresh training log updates

Custom RPE Charts, expanded PR widget, lots of new notes, navigation fixes (arrow/tab key), and Calendar functional updates round out the new features in this release.

Custom RPE Charts

rpe-chart
When you’re viewing the Training Log pages, you’ll notice a new tab in the sub-menu for Custom RPE charts.  This page will allow you to create new custom RPE charts — as many as you want.  Name them and save them.

After you’re done creating them, head over to the revamped “Manage Exercises” tab to select a custom RPE chart for any movement you desire.  Once you do this, the chart will be used to generate estimated 1RMs, PR’s, and more.

manage-exercises

There are some things you should be aware of with this feature:
1) changing your RPE chart only changes FUTURE exercise entries.  This is intentional.  If you’d like to have the RPE chart also affect past entries, then you’ll need to edit those entries and re-save them.
2) You’ll designate a special RPE chart for an exercise.  That will affect all the modifiers too.  So designating a new chart for “Squat” will also be used for “Squat+bands” and any other modifier.  This is also intentional as you probably don’t want to be making 30,000 RPE charts.  You don’t need to anyway.
3) Just a side note about the Manage Exercise screens… you’ll notice Default Exercises don’t have edit/delete buttons.  This is because you can’t edit/delete default exercises.

Expanded PR widget

pr-widget
On the dashboard, I’m sure you’ve noticed the PR widget.  We’ve added scroll to this widget and also expanded it to encompass the last 90 days.  You’re welcome.  🙂

Notes Everywhere
We’ve actually added three layers of notes.  The first are workout notes.  These will be super obvious to everyone as you enter your data.  Write whatever notes you want to keep in there, but we ask you to PLEASE DO NOT WRITE MESSAGES TO YOUR COACH IN THE WORKOUT NOTES.  They likely won’t see it.  Besides, that’s what email and other messaging platforms are for.

exnote

The second kind of note are Exercise Performance Notes.  To get to this note, while you’re on the edit screen, click the name of each exercise.  These notes are to help you keep track of performance cues or setup instructions for each exercise/modifier combination.  So for “Low Pin Squat”, you might write in what pin setting you use for your rack, or note that you’re adding the DB weights together for your Bulgarian Split Squats.

pronote

The third kind of note is a Calendar Note.  You can add a note directly to the calendar on a specific day using the plus icon on each day.  This allows you to make a note of significant events like when a specific training cycle started, or if you get injured, etc.  Again, we ask that you not use this to send messages to your coach because they could be missed.

calendarnote

Navigation Fixes
We’ve updated how the keyboard will navigate you around the Edit Workout screen.  Now you can use the left-right arrow or the tab key.  We hope this makes data entry a bit easier.

Calendar Updates
The calendar has been made much more useful.  Now you can add workouts, TRAC entries, and other events directly from the calendar using the plus icon (hover over a specific day).

Now clicking on a workout brings up the “view workout” screen in a pop-up, which means searching for a particular session should be much easier.  You can still easily edit or delete the workout using the on-screen buttons.

viewwo

We’ve also added a blue dot that will appear on the right side of any workout that has an attached video.  This will make it easier for you to find the sessions where you have video to watch.

 

That’s it for this round.  We’ll be back to work building more useful stuff for you soon.  If you have any feedback, please let me know.  Thanks for using our web tools!

Locking Out a Deadlift

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Locking Out a Deadlift
By Mike Tuchscherer

Lots of people talk about deadlifting, but you’ve got to examine the source that you’re listening to. I see people speaking about all sorts of things they have no authority on and the deadlift in particular is something that irritates me. It’s mostly because the deadlift is something I do have authority to speak on!
I’ve deadlifted 850 pounds myself while in the 275 pound weight class. But it’s not just what I’ve done – I’ve coached literally hundreds of lifters to personal bests, which includes a variety of national and world records in a variety of different countries. These are legitimate records, too; not the “flavor-of-the-month-federations” that tend to come and go each year.
Lots of people struggle to pull a deadlift through to the lockout and many lifters are perfectly capable of self-identifying this “lockout weakness”. The trouble I have seen is that the “lockout” is a pretty massive range of motion. Anything from the knees up is generally considered “lockout” in the deadlift. But consider that the bar starts 8 inches off the floor. That’s nearly mid-shin for lots of guys. So if you put it in this context, from the floor to the knees comprises about 1/3 of the range of motion for most guys. That leaves about 2/3 being from the knees up. Yes, that’s a large range of motion to consider “lockout” and not all of these lockout weaknesses will be the same.

Read more…

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