Mental toughness from boring statistics

Taking a scientific approach can provide confidence and mental toughness as you hit new personal bests (PBs).

The chart below represent the Squat PBs and the estimated 1RM – 4 weeks before a max-out session.  The blue vertical bars are the actual best lifts per repetition range from 1-12.  For each value an estimate is made to determine the lifter’s 1RM – the red line.

sq-pb-postOver the last 5 weeks steady progress has been made in the 8-5 repetition range in that the estimated 1RM using this data is already above his current 1RM of 100kg.  A new PB4 was achieved yesterday and there was 1 or 2 more repetitions ‘in the tank’.  The next 4 weeks will be focusing on the 2-5 repetition range and raising that red line to somewhere near 110kg.

Having that red line estimating a new 1RM will certainly help mentally on the max-out day, when I encourage the lifter with shouts of “you’ve got this”, “you’re strong enough” – these aren’t hollow words of encouragement but positive words backed by data.

The same goes for general workouts – lifting steadily heavier for repetitions across a wide repetition range will build a strong base and improve your 1RM, whilst reducing the risk of injury but not trying for a new 1RM every couple of weeks in the gym.

Get yourself a free copy of the spreadsheet which generates the chart above from the download section of www.qolup.co.uk – try it for yourself.

A year’s worth of training

Be aware that this is a long post and contains a fair amount of detail.  For a summary view of James’s progress in 2016 take a look at the ‘2016 Timeline’ link below.  For the whys, hows and if onlys please read the complete post.

I’ve written previously on the importance of setting goals and planning. It’s also very important to look back and review not just what you did and planned but why you did it too.  This honest review will allow you to get better goals in the future, know when to push harder and when to ease back.  Designing programmes based around events, school terms, holidays is a good idea.

I present here a year in the training life of James, who started with me when he was 13 but serious training didn’t start until he was 14.  He has other sporting commitments and wanted to use strength and conditioning to aid his rugby performance.

Click on the link below to see how the year was planned and progress along the way.

2016 Timeline

Above the calendar line on the chart you’ll see 1 repetition maximums (1RM) relating to the squat, deadlift and the bench press.  These lifts along with the bent over row, overhead press and chin-up formed the foundation for the gym based sessions.  At the time of publication personal bests at other repetition ranges are used to estimate the current 1RM – these estimated 1RM have been used to calibrate the next 6 weeks leading up to the Max out sesssion #3.  The last session of the year to test for strength.

His end of year targets were set during the month of his birthday, April, and are relative to his body weight, which I predicted would be 60kg by the end of the year.  Despite getting down to a single digit body-fat level this estimate is looking to be a little under and he may reach 62kg.  Regardless of this, the weight increase is down to muscular and skeletal growth and the targets are still achievable.

End of year targets (based on 60kg predicted body-weight)

  • Squat BW x 1.5                     1 x 90kg
  • Deadlift BW x 2                    1 x 120kg
  • Bench Presss BW x 1            1 x 60kg
  • Overhead Press BW x 0.75   1 x 45kg
  • Squat BW x 1                        20 x 60kg

As a coach it is important to factor in other demands that the client has. In James’s case this is predominantly rugby training and rugby matches. During the spring these amounted to twice weekly training and a match each Saturday.  During the autumn this was training 3 times per week and a match on Saturday.  After the rugby season had finished before the summer holidays demands were less and James was able to train in the gym 4 times per week.  He made very good gains training 4 days/week but this programme is not possible and infact would be detrimental to his overall health and recovery if it was pursued year round.

Matching the training routine to the other demands to allow for good recovery between sets is paramount.

Initial technique training

This covered 5 training sessions with just 3 exercises performed each session.

Squats were performed each session.  OHP – overhead press, DL – deadlift, BOR – bent over row were the only other movements.  Each column represents a set. BW = body-weight.  Sets which are underlined, eg 30×12 indicate a repetition personal best – which was recorded in James’ pb spreadsheet (available from the download area of this website).  22.5 x 6 (*1) for the OHP on 8-Apr-16 indicated that 6 repetitions were achieved but the last repetition had leg assistance.

The nomenclature @6, @8 etc refers to an RPE scale – a topic for a future post but in essence 50×10 @ 8 was recorded and means 10 repetitions were record for 50kg but James could have pushed it to 12 reps before reaching failure.  In the RPE scheme 8 means 8 out of 10 – 2 reps short of your maximum number of repetitions achievable (with good form) at that weight.

This was followed by a strength and conditioning programme in preparation for the first max-out session on 5-Jun-16.

Powerlifting Training

Training Wednesday, Friday & Sunday.

Squating each day – Wednesday – high repetition, personal best day. Followed by overhead press and deadlift.

Wednesday – Squat culminating in 7 repetitions at the weight you want to achieve 10 repetitions with for a new personal best (pb) on the following Monday.  Bench press – starting off in the cycle with high repetitions but moving towards low reps.  Finish off with a bent over row – a great exercise for a rugby forward and helps to balance out the chest and shoulder work.

Sunday – Squat again but for low rep pbs.  Low rep bench pb followed by high rep finisher sets x 2.  At the start of the cycle 3 sets of super set bicep & triceps were performed.

Rugby at this stage was training on a Tuesday and Thursday with the usual Saturday match.

If you looked at the link to the programme you have seen some blanks.  In the last week this was preparation for the max out session, blanks in earlier weeks were due to soreness in a body part.

MaxOut – 05-Jun-16

James achieved a new pb of 90kg in the Squat, 47.5kg in the Bench Press and 105kg in the deadlift.  All good lifts but he was disappointed in the Bench Press as he really wanted 50kg and had 2 failed attempts at this weight in the meet.  At this stage he could still perform a bent over row with more weight than his bench press – unusual in lifting circles but not unusual for a young rugby player with a very strong back.  At this point it is also worth noting that he was able to perform 14 good pull-ups.  As a coach I could see some areas of work required to improve his bench press. General rugby and scrum training were helping in his leg and core development but had little cross over in the bench press.  In future programmes I added assistance moves like the incline bench press, heavy overhead press, direct tricep work and close grip bench press to aid his bench press.

We had 6 training weeks until the next max-out session in July.  With the basics in place I was able to programme with increased volume and intensity which would rise over the 6 weeks.  The rugby season was behind him and he could recover well from the very tough sessions.

It wasn’t long before the next max out session on 17-Jul-16.

MaxOut – 17-Jul-16

James achieved a new pbs across all 3 lifts. 100kg in the Squat (+10kg), 50.5kg (+3kg) in the Bench Press and 110kg (+5kg) in the deadlift.

Summer holidays arrived and James deserved a break from lifting and more time outdoors.  His weeks were filled with tennis, running, cycling, surfing and a couple of beach bodyweight circuit training sessions whilst on holiday.

September arrived with a start of a new term and a rugby season.  Rugby training was Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with a match each Saturday.

Weights slotted in with a Sunday session and a Wednesday session.  Each session training the whole body.  Wednesday being heavy 3 x 6 and Sunday a moderate 2 x 10.  After 8 weeks without any 1RM tests I used the repetition calculators to estimate current 1RMs of Squat 104.25kg, Bench Press 57.75kg and Deadlift 110kg.  Sub-maximal training for repetition pbs provides a great off-season foundation and will improve you’re 1RMs.

The deadlift was kept in maintenance mode with a variation on the regular deadlift (the trap-bar deadlift) being used and time being spent on some olympic lifting practice for speed and agility.  Estimated 1RMs are good for the coach and provide confidence to the lifter but for the next 6 weeks before the final max out session of the year on 19-Dec-16 heavy low reps would need to be employed to comfortably attain those numbers.

My job as a coach is to safely get the lifter to achieve their goals.  Life can often get in the way of a perfect routine but you must work with it.  I knew that scrum practice in rugby would help in leg conditioning and muscular endurance so I could focus on speed and power.  Abbreviated routines were employed to ensure that recovery was adequate.

Take a peak at the end of year peaking cycle and I’ll post the results late December.

EOY peaking cycle