Lifter Case Study: Lorenzo
So after our first PRs team Q&A Zoom call, there were resounding suggestions of more discussion on lifter case studies. We definitely will be getting deeper into that on our team calls, but I figured if there was that much interest within the team, my general audience could greatly benefit from that as well. So over the next couple months I’m going to be diving into some of my lifters and what individual characteristics and strategies we found within their training that were unique to their progression. As well as if they are up for it as well, have each one of these lifter’s also make a post detailing what they’ve done personally on their end with controlling recovery, training, and external variables to maximize their progress. And first up will be Lorenzo, who I have coached for almost 3 years now. Lorenzo has been lifting for a while, and powerlifting for over 5 years now I believe. So in the realm of classification, I’d consider him a fairly advanced trainee. He is well past his newbie gains and incremental progress is what we strive for. But notably in the last 3-6 months he has hit a second wind. Partially from some strategies I will discuss below, but in large part because of his increased focus on the outside variables to maximize his training. In that regard, Lorenzo has made a post discussing the hierarchy of what he’s done that has mattered most, which I will include below!
But on my end as the coach, below are some of the main programming strategies we have used that have yielded the best results. And there are definitely other keys to his progression as well within programming. But I more so want to cover the topics that stray from the typical norm, and are things we had to figure out over time to individualize Lorenzo’s training to what best suits his needs.
1.) Lorenzo has very noticeable fatigue carry over between his low bar squat and sumo deadlift. So much so that Lorenzo only deadlifts once a week for 4 total sets. This is something I struggled with at first, because at first glance, Lorenzo’s technical proficiency on deadlift screams to me a likelihood to be able to handle high levels of workload. But that just is not the case in terms of frequency and set count. What we did find over time is that Lorenzo could handle higher tonnages, but not doing so through frequency and set count, but rather by means of higher rep work. Back off sets in the 6-9 rep range allowed us to achieve the volume requirements for stress and adaptation, but helped to limit the fatigue transfer between his squat and deadlift. Also within this structure, we have 3 distinct strategies we apply based on the goal within certain training blocks. If our goal is to really push deadlift, Lorenzo is able to handle higher workloads and frequency as long as we reduce specificity on squat and do high bar or SSB variations only. So during certain blocks throughout the year when we want to drive deadlift training stress, we will typically increase frequency to twice a week with 2-3 sets added on that day, while pulling back all low bar squat work. And vice versa, in times we either want to push squat, or simultaneously peak both, we pull sumo deadlift back to once a week frequency and reduce that set count back to 4-5 sets maximum. We’ve found within this structure he can still make progress on sumo deadlift, but by using low bar squat as the driver of strength of volume. And lastly, in regards to peaking we have found heavy deadlifts and heavy squats simultaneously will tank his squat. So a strategy we are going to implement during this current meet prep is to take his heaviest deadlift 1 block out, and then during the primary peaking block we will pull deadlift back to a more normalized intensity and more so train into the meet with deadlift, while driving up squat intensity.
2.) For a while I kept trying to drive a square peg into a round hole in regards to lower body accessory work for Lorenzo. He is able to handle high levels of squat volume without much issue, and by the look of his giant quads, seems to get a great hypertrophy stimulus from squats alone. But going back to point #1, I tried many times to find ways to acquire more lower body volume while reducing squat workload by means of belt squats, bulgarian split squats, leg press, etc. But every single time we did Lorenzo’s knees would act up. It could be 1 set of belt squat or 4 sets, it didn’t matter. Within 3-4 weeks his knees would be really achy. Once that happened, we’d pull accessory work, focus more on squat volume and his knees would feel fine again. We’d then try leg press to see if that would have a different effect, but just always the same result. I still could not tell you exactly why this occurred, outside of knowing in some manner these lower accessory exercises taxed the surrounding musculature to a degree that pushed their stress past their recovery abilities. But for some reason that is never an issue with just squatting. And if the point of lower body accessory work was to drive extra volume for added hypertrophy, why not just try adding squat volume since that seemingly never caused any issues. So we added a 3rd day of squatting, and to no surprise based on past data, it created no issues with the knees and only benefited his squat progress. For Lorenzo, just squatting seems to be the best way to drive volume and strength, so rather than continuing to drive the square peg into a round hole, I started following where all the signs were pointing to.
3.) A little while back I had the idea that an incline barbell bench press could have good transfer for high arch benchers due to range of motion and involved musculature. While I don’t think that panned out universally, it did for Lorenzo. Any time we push incline barbell bench for him, we see a direct correlation to his competition bench strength progressing. Of the 4 points I am making here, this is the one I have the least explanation for. I could try to piece together some explanation, but more so the lesson learned here is that sometimes we find a particular movement that just has a great transfer effect for a particular lifter. And too often we then assume since that lifter had great success with that movement, everyone should. Or the opposite, we find a certain movement doesn’t work well for most people, so we just completely eliminate it from our toolbox. Currently I have no one else I coach doing incline barbell bench press. I don’t think it’s a bad movement, but I will typically bias towards an incline dumbbell bench press for most people if we want to have a similar movement pattern. But just something about incline barbell press for Lorenzo works. And we wouldn’t have figured this out unless we were just open to trying new things, as well as being open to where the data of past blocks directed us.
4.) After a hard training session, the common feedback I’d hear from Lorenzo is that by the end of his back off sets he was dead. And that could have very well been the case. But when I’d see this back off work, to me it was still moving fairly effortless. Very commonly after a top set we have a bit of an adrenaline dump and decrease in focus and motivation. And I wouldn’t even call that entirely a negative, but just more so common nature. A strategy to work around that though is ascending sets. So for Lorenzo over these last 3-4 months we have introduced a lot more ascending work, and dare I say it has been magical. This has greatly increased the quality of his sets, and I think Lorenzo would agree he is very surprised how well he can actually hold onto strength and not “fatigue” when his mental focus is now shifted. If you have noticed his training lately, on his primary squat and bench day, we are doing ascending sets up to a top rep set that is then preceded by a heavy single. Before, doing a heavy single first seemed to tank Lorenzo. But now he is hitting rep PRs and then following that set up with all time bests on heavy singles. In reality he is doing the same program, just in a different order of execution. But that order made a world of a difference for his mental approach to each set. The quality of total work is much higher, and from that we are seeing noticeable results in strength progression.
To follow off of @prs_performance post over the past 3 months or so my training has seen some fairly solid progress. As someone who can be considered of “high training age” strength gains can be more difficult to come by than they used to. By no means do I considered myself an advanced lifter, there are many individuals who are far better than me and always will be. However I have been training (powerlifting specific for 6 years and working with Steve for 3 years) for quite some time. When you reach a certain point in your training, variables that weren’t considered early on now take more of a priority to see even the slightest progression. The following are the things that I took as priorities in ranking order over the last 3 months and even longer to see said progress.
• Finding a training environment conducive to progress (comp spec equipment and community of like minded individuals) – training @tysonsplayground was a game changer for me
• Maintaining a habitual training schedule – training at the same times/days and minimizing missed training sessions
• Sticking to planned RPE prescriptions and not deviating from the program
2. Trust/Communication with Coach
• Again deviating from the program – removing my biases and letting Steve take the wheel on just about everything
• Communicating about training daily, providing videos of all comp lifts, and providing your own personal insights into what you feel works best for you but also listening if they don’t agree – I’m working with Steve for a reason he is the coach and what he says goes
• As previously mentioned I’ve had the privilege of working with Steve since Dec 2018 – figuring out what works takes time
• Tracking daily bodyweight with comparison to daily caloric/macronutrient intake to establish baseline and making adjustments as necessary – currently trying to keep bodyweight around 204-207lbs
• Prioritizing hydration daily especially close to training and on heavier days
• Sleep – probably my least consistent of these, but trying to maintain a habitual sleep schedule as I can has shown a benefit (going to bed and waking up at the same time everyday)
4. Prep Work:
• Began taking prep work more seriously these past 3 months
• Prior to and even after every training session taking 10-15 min to address potential movement limitations (test/retest pre and post prep work as needed) caused from high training volumes – not a long term fix by any means but just enough variability to get me where I need to be for the respective training session.
• Important to note this is the lowest in rank because if the above are not taken care of this will probably serve little benefit as well.
• Thanks to @Conor_harris @Ben_Yanes @Lift_Ng for providing content, having conversations, and teaching me these concepts to allow me to better apply this and training