Naïve vs Purposeful Practice and Priorities

Written by: Kevin Cann

I had one of those “aha moments” yesterday while I was training.  I have been reading quite a bit on deliberate practice, attempting to find a means to squeeze every bit of potential out of each lifter I coach.  This planted the seed for this thinking.

I had decided to perform some comp singles this week just to see where I was at.  I hit a 515lb squat, which is 8lbs more than my comp best, and did so with much better technique.  This was a very good sign.  Some of the same weaknesses showed themselves, but they have gotten better.

Bench, I ended up hitting 345lbs.  Again, technically this may have been my best rep ever, but the weight is still down from where it was.  Over a year ago I had hit 380lbs with some more in the tank.  My meet last January I had hit 358lbs.  The numbers just do not seem to be there on bench.

I bench one day per day week in my 3 day training program.  I typically perform 3 different bench press exercises totaling between 15 and 20 sets.  This is a very high amount of volume for one day, but I get a full week to recover.  After this bench volume I typically hit 3 to 4 accessory exercises.

I hit the 345lbs yesterday and had planned to do some backdowns, but asked myself “why?”  What purpose would backdowns serve at this point?  At that point it is just doing reps for the sake of doing reps.  This is not purposeful practice.

I have been thinking a lot about the time constraints in performance.  Louie Simmons always said that the most important work should be done within 45 minutes, 60 minutes tops.  He would say it is due to the hormone shift of training, but I think it might be more than that.

The average adult attention span seems to be between 32 and 48 minutes.  Once we hit this threshold, we see a loss of attention and focus, 2 important pieces of purposeful practice.  Once our attention and focus decreases, we see a decrease in the quality of training.  At some point the risk exceeds the reward.

I have been doing so much bench volume, that it seems to have taken away from the other parts of the training.  The parts that are actually targeted to attack my weaknesses.  Even though I am addressing these pieces, they are not getting the attention that they deserve.

My day 1 is either a squat or deadlift max effort followed by accessory work.  The accessories there are getting a lot of attention.  I hit my volume on those 2 lifts later in the week.  I recover easier from bench press and definitely have the ability to handle greater volumes.  Because of this I crammed all of the volume into one training day.

In my head I was thinking that I need to do a certain number of reps in order to get better.  This is all based off of recommended volumes.  Now, I believe that all of these reps really enhanced my technical efficiency, so they definitely served a purpose.  However, I feel I could have done a better job balancing all of these aspects out.

Yesterday I only did 7 sets of bench press and then went into accessory work.  I am thinking of once every 3 weeks I will do a higher bench press volume day but spend 2/3 of my time targeting the physical weaknesses within the lift itself.

This will be sure that I am focusing on it and getting the most out of it as well.  Doing that stuff later in the session might not be as beneficial for me.  We will see how this goes over the next few weeks.

I am currently attempting to find a way to monitor deliberate practice with the group to see if there is a way for us to better improve the quality of our sessions.  Stay tuned.

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