Since opening the gym 4 and half years ago, getting to seminars has proven difficult. However, when I learned a couple of months ago that Mike Tuchscherer was coming out to Australia I made the extra effort.
Mike’s powerlifting achievements are very very impressive, his bio can be found here on the RTS website. In particular, it is his inquisitive and conscientious mind about powerlifting and training in general, which is most appealing. One need only take a short tour around his newly redeveloped website to see what kind of direction he has taken his training and the kinds of services he offers.
You see, I AM actually taller than Mike T.
OPENING TOPIC AREA. ‘Current Theories in Auto-Regulation’ Mike Tuchscherer.
Not to singularly type-cast someone, but in terms of ‘shtick’ Mike T is somewhat known for his theories and practice of auto-regulation. Philosophically, the theory has to do with basing the weight on the bar within the training template on the abilities and preparedness of the lifter on that training day. It relies on the use of a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). This is where the lifter indicates a number that corresponds with how difficult the previous set was.
A prescription might be something like “Work up to 1×3@9 RPE”. This would mean that the lifter works up to a set of 3 repetitions until the set is so difficult that only one more rep is possible before failing.
Using the system, the lifter should not miss any reps and should also be able to give precise feedback on exactly how they are going in the training session.
In this opening to the seminar, Tuchscherer was able to introduce how some of the arrangements that this methodology are expressed. Tuchscherer offered, ‘Load drops’, ‘Rep Drops’ and ‘Repeat Sets’, with the emphasis in this presentation on ‘Load Drops’.
Without stealing the novelty of the system too much, Load Drops result in subsequent drops in weight on the bar by a certain percentage seeking a certain RPE after the heaviest peak set. This is usually 1-2 sets.
The Auto-regulation method is in contrast to traditional percentage based systems. One of my questions at the seminar was in regards to the need for a conscientious type lifter to properly get the most out of this system. As a coach of mostly novice and intermediate lifters who are only scratching the surface, auto-regulation will require them to take the next step in recording data and acknowledging the feedback of their own body. Auto-regulation ‘accurately accommodates the reality of varied preparedness’.
The draw back, particularly initially, could be the poor understanding that a lifter may have of their fatigued state. With a percentage based program, it says right there on the page what the next set will be in the training session. However, as that percentage method program progresses, the fatigued lifter might not make that next set due to the amount of fatigue; be it a genuine plateau in the training progression or an incomplete recovery from the previous session or any number of other reasons. Either way, they miss the set, and that is not good.
Auto-regulation might be something that I recommend to a few lifters in the future who are beyond their initial novice phase and ready to explore other methodologies.
‘WINNING MENTAL APPROACH’. Sioux-z Hartwig-Gary
20 time National champion Sioux-z Hartwig-Gary presented on ‘Winning The Mental Approach’. Hartwig has been a consistent high performer and detailed her thoughts on ‘Mental management: Improved probability of having consistent mental performance under pressure, on demand’.
The Conscious Mind focuses on the task at hand. The Subconscious Mind is well trained. Self Image is when you ‘Act Like You’. Hartwig recommends 5 elements of gaining the edge mentally.
1) Recognize you have a choice. Put yourself in control by making a decision about what you are going to do in response. Vent if you have to get it out of the system but move on.
2) Get organized. Write things down, be specific.
3) Focus. Just that task at hand.
4) Visualize. See yourself doing the lift and doing it calmly.
5) Confess. Positive affirmation and make an action statement.
Hartwig-Gary is a breath of fresh air; up beat and positive. Her infectious attitude is an attempt to prime her for performances and have an excellent outlook on life and its ups and downs.
Emily is a member of the SSS Brains Trust, so often asks much better questions than your writer does.
OPTIMIZING PERIODIZATION AND ‘DUP’. Dr Mike Zourdos.
Dr Zoudos is the assistant Professor in Exercise Science at Florida State University. His presentation detailed findings that foundationally support his training methodologies.
Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) immediately made me think of some of the early ‘Light, Medium and Heavy’ days prescribed in team sport barbell sessions from the 70’s and 80’s in the US. Joe Kenn most recently described a system of Squatting, Benching and Power Cleans, 3 times a week, each taking a rotation of being Light and quick, Medium for volume and Heavy for intensity. Zourdos goes well beyond this strategy however.
Overall, Zourdos is a proponent of managing and prescribing competition lifts with varied intensities and volumes to get the optimal training effect. He gave a detailed summary of a study comparing Flexible Non-Linear and Non-Flexible loading prescriptions.
The seminar encouraged lifters to be able to design their own training programs to manage which days should be lighter, heavier and more volumous. A 4 week example sighted squatting progressions for 3 sessions per week starting with a percentage based week #1 and incremental advancements there-forward. The system makes sound use of known and established protocols for advancement and doesn’t stray too far from the methods often seen in our gym for the quick lifts; varied stimulus created through the volume and intensity of the lift, not different kinds and versions of the same lift.
MATT GARY: COACHING THE LIFTS AND ATTEMPT SELECTION.
Matt Gary, husband of Sioux-z is a National team coach, referee and competitor. He presented on the basic fundamentals of the 3 competition lifts as well as information on attempt selection backed by excellent data from competitions.
The attempt selection data was tremendously interesting. Gary provided research on competitions, comparing place getting and lifts made. He also broke down how lifts are missed and on the repercussions on 1 miss on subsequent attempts statistically.
The recommendations are clear. Conservative openers, don’t miss an attempt, have a sound plan and stick to it, if something goes wrong “build your total, don’t bomb out”.
Gary presented demonstrations of landmark lifters, noting their precision and attention to detail. Being that many at the seminar have been drawn to Mike Tuchscherer’s technique in lifting, these were ears ready to aspire to a precise, sober approach to competition powerlifting.
Gary is a loud clear presenter and you imagine the great sense of security and support he would give to the lifters he is handling on meet day. Competitors would be smart to find such an experienced advisor for their meets if they can.
DAILY 1RM TRAINING. Dr Mike Zourdos.
Dr Zoudos presented on Day 2 about his data collection on daily 1RM squat training.
There are a few examples on the net of blogs detailing some attempts to squat a heavy single every day for a year. Zourdos has collected data on 2 squat periods of 41 and 69 days where he advanced his squat to a new PR (41 day block) and experienced the, as you could expect, fluctuations in performance. It is the observation and understanding of those fluctuations which are educational.
The point of the experiment is to demonstrate the adaptation waves experienced by the human organism under the stress of daily max squatting. The experiment presentation dove-tailed into Dr Zourdos’ thoughts on the difference in importance between intensity and volume. The protocol for the daily max involved rotating 5×3@85% and 5×2@90% back off sets, the percentage based off of the 1RM recorded that day. His presentation on Day 1 about Daily Undulating Periodization detailed the use of varied volume and intensity days for a single lift in a 4 week block. The Daily 1RM protocol demonstrated instead the ability of the body to adapt to such a stimulus and that pushing through the initial drop in performance will be overcome later on in the progression if time is allowed for. Zourdos recorded an initial drop to 440lb 1RM after starting at 460lb; he then recorded a 505lb PR and a second 500lb 1RM over the 41 days of the experiment. Whilst in and of itself the experiment is not something applicable to most people, the data suggests that training frequency can be set to very high levels as long as the volume and intensity are managed appropriately.
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: OPINIONS ON ASSISTANCE WORK.
Tuchscherer, Gary and Zourdos finished the seminar with a very interesting debate on the use and place of assistance work.
Zourdos’ presentations at the seminar detail a direction towards manipulating the competition lifts to drive performance. By contrast, Tuchscherer finds a place for assistance work and looks for a creative solution to lifter deficiencies be it paused squats, deadlift holds or board presses (to name just a few).
Gary is the middle-man, advocating principles from both sides. The audience however was mostly with the Tuchscherer way of thinking but to be fair to Zoudos he is not talking about rehabbing injured lifters. He’s talking about healthy lifters who are battling to make progress. His opinion is that the SAID principle leads us towards mastering the competition lift and manipulating the variables of intensity, frequency and volume to improve the training effect. My question to him in the Q&A time at the end was “Once you grant the failure of a lift due to stabilizing musculature instead of prime moving musculature, and you concede that assistance lifts are more efficient in strengthening those areas aren’t you better off selecting a stimulus that forces a faster adaptation that is lacking?”
Zourdos is not convinced. Tuchscherer even more succinctly puts it this way, ‘The opportunity cost of missing another session of the main lift is outweighed by the carry over benefit of improving an assistance lift.’
The final installment of the seminar probably could have gone on for hours and overall was one of the better components of the weekend. The lifting skill demonstrations were somewhat redundant for me as they are almost identical to how I coach the lifts now anyway with some minor differences such as gripping the bar instead of thumbless for the low bar squat. Those periods did however allow for others to ask questions specific to them and gain some direct coaching observation.
The weekend will urge me to add some auto-regulation to my training prescriptions and already I have recommended someone consult with Reactive Training Systems about their next training block. Whilst there are a lot of seminars on offer, this one was one that I gladly made time for.