Few Thoughts on Programming and Some Changes Coming

Written by: Kevin Cann


Reddit tore me apart for writing an article about a bar that you definitely do not need to use to get stronger.  Just wait until they get their hands on this one.


I am constantly trying to improve in any way I can.  My biggest goal is to get the biggest totals for my lifters while keeping them as safe as possible.  I do my best not to let my ego get in the way of improving.


At the end of the day, I have only been coaching this sport for 3 years.  I know I have much to learn.  Of course, the more I learn the less I feel I know.    Enough of that for now, this is probably going to be a long one, so I am going to get right into it.


When I started coaching, I was mimicking what Sheiko was doing for me with Danielle Bond.  For over a year I used her as a guinea pig and to understand better the programs that I was receiving.


We used the average intensities and recommended volumes laid out by Sheiko.  Danielle went from a 205lb squat, never benched, and a 275lb deadlift to a 345lb squat, 195lb bench press, and 395lb deadlift by just following this plan.


All variations were selected based upon technical issues seen within the lifts.  We did not vary the movement much as all squat variations were done in comp stance with comp bar placement.


Enter Kerry.  When Kerry walked in she was a very different lifter than she is now.  She would get intimidated by bigger weights.  After her first competition with me I told her we are going to take heavier singles more frequently.  For the squat I wanted to make 225lbs the new norm.


The more she handled that weight, the less it would negatively affect her emotions, the more confidence she would have, and we would see increases in performance.  Fast forward a year and half and she has squatted 286lbs multiple times in the gym.


After the success I had with Kerry doing this I began to think.  Maybe there is a benefit to using heavy singles with other lifters.  I decided it was more appropriate before a competition.  Before the competition in April, all of the lifters took 90-95% for 4 weeks not including the test week.


The results were outstanding.  Everyone hit some big PRs on the platform.  After this competition I began thinking of ways to incorporate heavier singles in the program more frequently.  Maybe 1 time per block we take a 90% single on squat, bench press, and deadlift?


I did not put this into action as I was still sitting on it.  I was then watching a documentary about the Greek weightlifter Dimas.  He ran the Soviet system for years to build a strong foundation and then the Bulgarian Method.  He won 4 medals in 4 Olympics, making him the greatest weightlifter of all time.


Now, weightlifting is not powerlifting, but I took this as a sign.  Once we have built the right volumes and technique how can we push training? Dimas built volume and technique and then started taking daily maxes.  This got my wheels turning.


One downfall of everyone using 85% or less for the majority of their training is that they do not really get after it when it gets heavier.  The argument for not going over 85% is based off of technique and the idea that 90% is more stressful to the lifter.  I very rarely ever take these heavier weights.


However, what I saw with my lifters is that 90% actually became less stressful over time. Stress-wise, a double or triple at 85% is more difficult than a single at 90%.  We can actually still follow the principles laid out by Sheiko and incorporate these singles at 90-95% of 1RM.


For example, let us take 80% comp squats for 6 sets of 3.  This is preceded by the typical warmup of 50%x5, 60%x4, 70%x3.  The lifter can then take a double at 80%, single at 85% and then we get into the heavy singles.


Let us say the lifter hits 90%, 92.5%, and 95% for singles.  We then back off and hit a 3×3 80%.  The relative average intensity for this is 71.94% and 27 lifts.  For 6 sets of 3 at 80% it is 30 lifts with an average relative intensity of 71.33%.  Difference in total tonnage is miniscule and can easily be made up with the warmup sets, or on the other squat day.  Using the daily maxes is identical to 5 sets of 3 at 80% for volumes and average relative intensities.


These daily maxes will be done on 1 day of the week for each lift and done for 2 weeks with 1 week off. For example, day 1 a daily max on squat and bench and day 2 for deadlifts.  These maxes can either be taken in the competition lift, or its variation.  This will be decided by me for each lifter.


The daily max will be an RPE 9/9.5 and I do not allow the lifter to go over 95% of 1RM without getting my OK.  They will not be allowed to use ammonia, or any other things to increase psychological arousal.  They must take these singles as if it were 80%, if they need extra hype it is too heavy.


Not every lifter will be allowed to use the daily maxes.  They must have shown consistency in technique throughout their program and their volumes must have met at least the minimum of the recommendations for at least 3 months.


As a coach I like the idea of daily maxes as a monitoring tool.  I can monitor the lifter’s progression or even regression a lot better than I can now.  This will go nicely with their LSRPE.  Over time, we can use these daily maxes with the intensity intervals to more accurately get the correct weight on the bar for training.


I think other training programs that utilize daily maxes miss the mark on load management.  If the number of lifts, average relative intensity, and working up to a similar LSRPE as typical top work sets are all the same then the program should yield similar results.  I would think with the added benefit of the specificity and the confidence the lifter gets from handling these weights.


I also monitor load management through the ACWR.  As long as I keep the ratio between .80-1.30 injury risk seems to be lowered.  This put some upper and lower limits on the program for volume and the daily maxes with the recommended volumes will need to fall within this range.  Using percentages also allows me to control loads in a more predictable way.


I believe we differ from the typical Sheiko students in a number of ways.  For one, the students in Russia are raised by the sport.  They get coaching at an early age.  Oftentimes, a lifter in Eastern Europe has had around 10 years of training by the time they are a sub junior or junior in the IPF.


That is not the case here in America.  Here we typically play other sports until we can’t anymore and then powerlifting becomes an option.  For some, this is after high school and others after college.  For myself that was at 32 years old when I stopped doing the mma stuff.  I believe that these lifters have different needs from those in the Eastern bloc countries.


Every Russian child does gymnastics and learns body control.  From there, if they decide powerlifting is the way to go they go to a school that specializes in it.  It is part of their daily school curriculum.  In the beginning, they get lots of GPP work and as they age and grow within the sport, they begin to get more and more direct competition lift work.


This is not the case here. Many just begin with the barbell. Some have played multiple sports which helps build a nice base of nervous system skills.  However, many did not.  Many pick up a barbell without playing sports.  Their only foundation is the competition lifts with shitty technique.


We can’t go backwards and change the past.  We need to find a way to best set these lifters up for long term success under these conditions.  From talking to coaches such as Ryan Gleason, Zac Cooper, Jeremy Hartman, and Nick Guidice the consensus seems to be to blast accessory work early on to build a foundation.


From there, make sure that their technique is good enough to keep them safe and to perform well.  Once that is achieved, load it.  Make lifters that are strong in all positions; high bar, low bar, close stance, wide stance, conventional, sumo, and so on.  As Hartman stated on the podcast “Build well rounded athletes.”  Select variations based off weaknesses and continue to push them until they are strengths.


This is getting long so I will wrap it up there.  I will write about the progress of the daily maxes as we see if it works or doesn’t work.

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