General Training

Emphasising Quality over Quantity

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This is a topic close two my heart I have two internal coaches that sit on both of my shoulders one want’s to hit bigger weights and better reps every session and the other wants to make every thing look beautiful as I progress in age (at the ripe old age of 27!) I am beginning to pay a lot more credence to the guy who wants to make things look beautiful.

From experience the times when I have lifted with as close to good or “perfect” positions that I can manage have always been the most productive.  Taking time out to emphasis the positions of the movement, the speed of the movement and accruing a volume of quality work load has almost always ended up in some of my best lifting and best results.

On the flip side of the coin when I have just went for 100% effort in my training I always end up with good results for 3-4 weeks periods and then I start running into problems with stiffness and general lack of quality of movement which puts the breaks on my training pretty quickly and I have spent up to 3 months getting back to any quality in my training.

Why is a good position more important then loads of weight at the expense of form?

  1. Injury prevention – this is pretty much number one when it comes to the benefits of keeping your form as good as possible.  When you keep you joints and limbs in the correct positions then you make it much less likely you will pick up any niggles or injuries which will allow you to train with loads that will cause a training stimulus for much greater periods of time leading to a larger net increase in strength in the long run.
  2. Better Return from training – when you train the same form rep after rep you are getting more volume in the same motor pattern which means your accruing more training in the same movements   This is probably a small percentage factor but it does mean that you will get as much out of your training volume as possible in terms of strength return.
  3. Get More from your efforts – good form is good form for a reason for most people you will be stronger when you lift in the correct line then when you come out and do it any old how.  If you watch really expert lifters you will see little deviation in the execution of reps until they break down and have to grind with everything they have to make the rep or they fail it.
How can I enact these ideas?
  1. Get on top of your flexibility and mobility – loosing position because you are not flexible enough to maintain it is a shitty excuse.  You are robbing yourself of strength by not being able to hit the correct positions in a lift stretch and foam roll before, during and after a session to make sure you are getting the most out of your training.
  2. Accrue volume in an 80-90% Range – volume is a function of sets x reps so if you can get 30 good looking reps by doing 10 sets of 3 with a weight vs doing 3 sets of 10 with a weight and it looking like dog shit you might be better off with the 3s.  It is a fine line to tread and a difficult one to tread with out a coach to guide you.  If in doubt keep the reps fast and nice.
  3. Plan your max training – Rather than randomly deciding to go heavy one day for no reason plan your maxes out in advance.  Lets use and example to show you how you might plan a max.

You have been using 5 sets of 5 for the past 3 months and would like to max out your best lift.  Work out your predicted 1 RM of your best 5 rep effort and perform the following peaking routine. – Week 1 – 4 sets of 4 @ 85% of 1RM – Week 2 – 3 sets of 3 @ 90% of 1RM – Week 3 – 2 sets of 2 @ 95% of 1RM – Week 4 – Max week.

Hopefully some of these ideas can help you keep away from some of the pitfalls of overly aggressive training cycles.