An Approach to New Athlete Programming

A long time lifter, but looking to be a first time powerlifting competitor, Austin came to me in hopes of getting on track to competing in his first powerlifting meet. Looking to compete at the 83kg class, I’ve got some very high hopes for Austin and am confident by the end of this year he will be putting up some very competitive numbers on the platform. Our initial goal for Austin is to regain the strength he has lost since a slight setback with some knee pain that occurred late last year. And after just 2 weeks you can see the neurological adaptations happening every workout as his strength progression has been phenomenal. Probably by the end of this first training block he will be back to his previous numbers which were projecting out to a 1,350 total, and from there we will build.

Austin has 10+ years of lifting experience, so he is a case where there wasn’t a ton to work on. He has a significant amount of muscle for his frame, only some slight tweaks to his form are needed, and he is already pretty darn strong.  More what it comes down to for me as a coach is now taking him to that next level. Finding what we need to do to not just be strong, but to possibly break him into that elite status. A lot of his past experience comes in bodybuilding, and while he has trained for powerlifting, it came more from template based online programs versus really finding a individualized approach that was going to be perfect for him. But what does individualizing a program for a new athlete like Austin even mean?

1.) Austin has been lifting for 10+ years, so he understands his body. Unlike most, I put Austin immediately on a fully auto-regulated program where I give him top sets to a certain RPE that then auto-calculates the numbers for his working sets. So instead of giving him numbers to work to, he has a top single or top sets such as 1×1 @ 7 RPE or 1×6 @ 7 RPE that then determines his training. This allows the training each week to be adjusted to him. And due to his experience, he already is doing a great job of assessing and gauging RPE, which lifters with a low training age  on the other hand may struggle with.

2.) I took into account Austin’s past training history. He competed in 4 bodybuilding shows and did high volume bodybuilding workouts, so I knew he would be able to handle a bit more volume on accessory movements than most. Also, the powerlifting template he ran last year was a bit too much in regards to competition squat volume, which resulted in some patellar tendonitis. So taking that into account we adjusted squat volume and variations to account for a more optimal approach to his squat training.

3.) While Austin has been training 10+ years, his powerlifting training age is significantly less. He has been squatting, benching, and deadlifting for a while, but commitment to long term training leading to a meet has not yet occurred. So what this means is that we don’t need to be fancy. Austin is probably going to gain strength at first fairly easy just from skill practice and neurological adaptations, so there is no need to overcomplicate things.

4.) And lastly, I had to take into account and individualize his programming to his lifestyle. Austin had just started a new job, so days and times to train were more limited than in the past. He had struggled with finding a new consistent workout routine, so we worked together to find the best approach that would allow him to be consistent and make progress while still having time for his other priorities.

Does his program still have aspects that probably look like some of my other athletes? Of course! Individualization doesn’t mean every athlete has some special program that is entirely different. What it does mean is that we take into account the variables that make each athlete different, and build a plan around that to optimize their training.

Leave a Reply