When starting any new training program — either after some time off from the gym, following a competition, or rolling into one right after finishing your last — coaches and athletes should adhere to these six components to ensure the best odds for progress.
Below are six things coaches and athletes should do to improve the effectiveness of any training program that they are starting. Generally speaking, most athletes can benefit from adhering to these basics, however coaches and athletes should have 100% agreement and understanding on what the expectations and plan is to best individualize results.
Set Your Maxes Conservatively
When starting a training program, some coaches have athletes base their loading percentages off of current maxes, expected maxes (at the conclusion of the training program), and/or off of a lifters “training max” (roughly 90-95% of their true one-rep max). Regardless of what method a coach decides upon, it is advised to stay relatively conservative with a lifter’s maximal, since over-projecting can lead to stalled progress, poor compensation patterning (the athlete may try to move the weight any way possible, rather than with correct alignment and form), and lead to overtraining and staleness. I find that using an athlete’s “training max” allows for long-term success and allows for adjustments to be made depending on other non-controllable factors that an athlete may be subject to (poor sleep, time constraints, nutrition, and stress).
Monitor Energy, Sleep, and Appetite
While many coaches and athletes understand the importance of sound nutrition and recovery, these components sometimes take a back seat in the beginning of a programming cycle (when we feel freshest and most optimistic).
As the weeks progress, any compounded malnutrition and poor recovery will show itself and can lead to injury, stalled progress, and disappointment. Rather than waiting for that to happen, coaches and athletes should set out a sound nutrition, sleep, recovery, and stress management strategy to optimize long-term results and allow for continuing adjustments and reevaluations.
Track Your Nutrition
Without knowing what is going directly into our bodies, we may be missing out on optimal performance and recovery. Coaches and athletes should track, monitor, and evaluate their nutrition to ensure proper hydration, carbohydrate ingestion (critical for strength and power athletes), protein and fats, and overall calorie consumption. Without controlling the aspects of a program that we have control over, we may leave ourselves open to disappointment.
Don’t Get Overzealous
Nearly every training program starts with moderate intensity and volume, with a progressive overloading of training variables. Fluctuations of strength, energy, recovery, stress, and an athlete’s abilities occur throughout a training program.
Often, in the beginning, it is easy to become overzealous with setting our maxes, training volume, and intensity, which has a compounding effect on successive workouts. Coaches and athletes need to find the fine line between attacking a training program with effectiveness and merely going overboard. As cliche as it may be, “Rome wasn’t build in one day.”
This should go without saying, however, I feel the need to reiterate it to not only myself but to most of us out there. For the vast majority of us, we train not for paychecks but for some other intrinsic motivation deep within. While a level of commitment and focus must be present, often leaving us compelled to do things we may not feel like doing (like 8×2 squats at 80-85% at 5am in the morning). Learn to have fun and still train hard to maximize your efforts and time.
Document Your Journey
Every training program you start, I recommend keeping track of your notes and progress. Taking the time to analyze what worked, what movements were more difficult, and tracking your progress (or lack there of) will help you when it comes time to made adjustments in the future. Whether you keep a training log by hand, or document your journey via Instagram posts, you can find motivation and positive moments to fuel you through the tougher weeks of the program.
A poor program done well is often more effective than a good program done poorly. Take the time to control as many variables in your life as you can when embarking on a new training program (nutrition, sleep, recovery, stress, lifestyle, etc) to maximize your performance.
Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
Featured Image: @rpstrength on Instagram