Written by: Kevin Cann
This article is going to go with a solo podcast I just recorded. I discussed how I started and how we ended up doing things the way that we do them now. This is going to be a quick addition as I believe that people think we do so many things different than we did before.
When we were mimicking a Sheiko program before we were using a specific number of lifts and average intensity based off of lifter classification. We used percentages for these numbers. Technique was the primary driver of exercise selection and those other factors.
We would squat 2 times per week, deadlift 2 times per week, and bench 3-4 times per week. There would be high, medium, and low stress training days sprinkled throughout the block. We would even do the dreaded double lift days.
Currently, I do not write sets, just exercise and suggested top weight. There are no percentages and the top sets are just a range of RPEs from 8.5 to 9.5. The frequencies of lifts shift around as well. The rest of the information is lifter dependent.
The lifter chooses the number of sets based off of how the day is going and how they feel they need to warmup. They have rules governing the top sets. They are to get 1-2 at RPE 8.5-9.5. I give a suggested weight, but they can adjust accordingly. Sometimes it does not work well at first, but then they drop the weight and work back up and hit it. Sometimes they don’t work back up.
If they do not work back up, that is a lighter or medium stress day. They still have those; they just self-organize into them. We get so hellbent on general principles being true that we think we can predict when the lifter will need a break and we think we can predict performance. None of this is true.
The human body is pretty amazing. There are all kinds of feedback loops that can dictate this process if we just listen. If fatigue is going to affect performance, we will see it by the top set being less than we anticipated. Sometimes the lifter feels tired and still exceeds that number.
We need to embrace uncertainty and understand that we are not smarter than the human body. I will vary frequencies based off of performance for the lifters. Sometimes 3 days a week where we squat twice, bench 2-3 times, and deadlift once is better. Sometimes we need more. It often will look exactly like it used to with 4 days per week. Squats and deadlifts twice and bench 3-4 times.
We still use double lift days as I see appropriate. I still use variations to attack the technical inefficiencies. These variations make up the majority of the volume just like they did before. I vary more now, where before everything was in comp stance or grip. Now I move the lifters around in a bunch of different positions.
Instead of getting lots of sets for practice, I choose to have a more targeted approach where our practice will be more specific. We will get the 1-2 sets at a very challenging weight. Effort at the end might be the same, I just choose to use a heavier weight as I feel it is a different skill and has an emotional response from the lifter.
This is a constraints-led approach. We get more deliberate practice, so we don’t need as much. There was the old 10,000-hour rule that was believed to be true, but research suggests that it comes down more to the quality of training than the quantity. How much each person needs are dependent on that person. Everyone learns at a different rate.
Everyone has different stuff going on outside of the gym. We do not know how this stuff can affect performance, but sometimes it may be best to just do 3 days as trying to get that 4thday in just becomes a stressor to them. Sometimes performance stalls and we got to suck it up and get that 4thday in.
There are no answers. As a coach I feel we need to guide the process with the general principles in the back of our minds. I learned the general principles from Sheiko, and you can still see how heavily our programs are influenced by him. I choose to use 1 to 2 hard sets for the number of lifts and average intensity now, but technique is still first. The structure changes throughout as I see fit, but much of it is still influenced from the structure I used under him. It may seem very different, but it is not so different at all.