How long will you continue to lift, with no marked progress? How many years will you let your numbers stagnate before you do something about it? How many times will you walk into the gym and watch your numbers decrease before you admit to yourself that you have no idea what you’re doing? In this article, I will discuss some of the pitfalls I see from my own client’s previous training styles, as well as my own pitfalls, to help you better understand when it is time to seek outside counsel for guidance in your training.
I would like the preface this article with the fact that I am not writing it from the viewpoint of a guru, I am in no way a strength guru. Instead, I will just be writing about a lot of the mistakes I made with my own training, before I realized I was stagnating, and decided to turn to an outside source for help. I have always been fairly adept at writing programming for others: I can see what they are good at, what they are bad at, and the steps that need to be taken to correct their weaknesses or mistakes. When the subject of my programming came up, however, that was a different tale altogether.
I would sit down, look at my terrible numbers, and write out four or eight weeks of great programming, which would address all of my weaknesses, and build me to a peak down the road when I could test new numbers. I am sure some of you could guess how it all turned out when I walked into the gym: I would deviate a little here and there towards the end of week one, just to do some stuff I was good at. By the end of week three, I had deviated so far from my original programming that it didn’t even bear a resemblance to it anymore. This is the pitfall that at least 85% of my clients are in themselves. Does this mean I am Olivia Pope, and I am adept at handing the crises of everyone else, but I can’t handle my own crises? Maybe, but I don’t think I wear enough white jackets for that. Instead, it just means I was doing the things I was good at (Strongman events) while neglecting everything I was bad at (PL lifts).
After bombing out of a couple SM shows, I finally realized that I needed outside help if I was going to ever put up some good numbers, which was a big deal for me, because I pretty consistently despise being told what to do, as I am sure some of you do. Being a bad lifter and hating being told what to do can go hand in hand, and if you hate being told what to do, yet also hate your numbers, you probably won’t advance very far. Turning to Alanna for help was the best decision I have ever made, in regards to my training, and it is something I am thankful for every day. I don’t bomb out of shows anymore, and my PL numbers are steadily increasing alongside my SM numbers.
I see my clients and athletes stumbling through the same pitfalls I stumbled through, and I feel that this enables me to better understand their position, and why they are stuck. In our shared gym space, whenever I hit a PR with a Crossfitter watching, they will ask me what the number was, and then, without fail, they will go into a long winded speech about why their numbers aren’t decreasing, why they haven’t PR’d their 200lb squat in two years due to a plateau, and why they are hurt.
I don’t ask them for this information, they just always seem ready to spew it, in case I am about to judge their numbers (I’m not judging). If you have been stuck with a 200 or even 300lb squat for YEARS, that is a sure sign that you have No idea what you are doing with your training. Yes, you know how to do hundreds of reps with light weight, how to sit perfectly in the bottom of a third-world squat, and you can recite all of the bullet-points for foam-rolling and it’s benefits, but that doesn’t change the fact that you can’t break a 200lb squat.
This is not a plateau, and you shouldn’t be using that word at all. In fact, there will be a $1 fine every time someone uses the P word, which will go straight to the team’s burrito fund. Instead, as stated before, this is a sign that you are lost in your own training and you can’t find the exit. This rings especially true if you are diligently going to the gym each day. We hear this a lot as well: not only are they not hitting PR’s, their already low numbers are actually decreasing. I can see the lost look on their face and recognize it well: I used to have the same look, and feeling that I would never get better.
This is the time when you should be seriously considering turning to an outside source for your programming. What I always tell my clients who ask for programming, and also ask if they cant still do some of their own programming, is this: “Whatever you were doing in the last year has not worked for you in the slightest, why would you want to keep doing it?” Some of them don’t like to give up control, and that is fine, but they never last very long. The ones that show the most promise and results are the ones that hand over total control to their coach, whether it is an online coach or coaching in person.
I handed over complete control of my programming to Alanna, and except for MAYBE 5 total deviated reps in our 9 month journey together, I have followed it diligently, and have been rewarded because of it.
If you find yourself stuck in a rut that has lasted for months or years, with numbers that you find to be paltry, this is a justifiable concern that you, in fact, have no idea what you are doing. There is no shame in asking others for help, humans are social creatures, and we work best when we work together. Take advantage of that fact, and turn to an outside source for your programming: No one will care about the person who took last place, but never asked for programming help. If you want to take the podium, or just set some big gym lifts, let your control be given to an outside party: They will see the things that you re too blind to see, and by being held accountable to someone other than yourself, you will have someone to answer to if things go wrong.
Good night, and good luck.