My 4 Keys To Tracking Lifter Data

My 4 Keys To Tracking Lifter Data

With posts I’ve made in the past about particular athletes and the individualization of their programs, it is a common theme that people reach out asking how I am able to sift through the data to spot these things. And honestly, I don’t do anything fancy. Some coaches find utility in more objective data collection, and I definitely do not see anything wrong with that. I have had times where I tracked more specific data and experimented with the latest stress or workload formulas (anyone remember INOL?!). But at least for me, it did not add much value and mostly cluttered my mind with information that wasn’t necessarily that useful. Over time I’ve found myself doing less in the sense of data collection than doing more, which I think is the same for any coach, as they find for them what specifically adds the most value and utility. So for me, I found 4 things to be really important in being able to sift through all the information and being able to pick up on trends within my athletes training. And if you are looking for some content here that is revolutionary or will blow your mind, this probably isn’t it. This is simple, in line with the Michael Sott K-I-S-S formula for success.

1.) I set a hard cap on my athlete count. Like I said, I’m not going to blow your mind, but I am going to be blunt and honest about issues within the industry. While maybe some coaches disagree, I am not sure how in the world I could ever focus on 70+ athletes at a time. The most I have ever coached at once is 35, and honestly for me that pushed my comfort zone a bit. And it was not even due to a total workload issue, it was just so much information to be able to recognize and still deliver equal and exceptional attention to each and every athlete. Now there are definitely coaches who coach more than 30-35 and are able to provide fantastic service, but for me that was my happy spot. Any more and I know that the quality of my service would diminish. And knowing what that point is as a coach, and being accountable to not chasing the temptations of more money or that new stud athlete and going out of your comfort zone isn’t easy at times. But that is a major key in how I’ve been able to sift through all of my athletes training and be able to pick up on data and trends that can be vital to their success.

2.) Something I started about 2 years ago was taking notes at the end of every athlete’s training block for each lift. What I found is that in the short term I could remember things fairly easily, but the multiple times a week I’d be trying to think back to prior blocks, I’d struggle to remember the variables during a certain training block and why it was or was not successful. The easy fix was just taking notes, and being detailed with them. I try to piece together what went well and what didn’t go well each block, notating any outside variables that were positive or negative, technical improvements that may have occurred during the block, and any other relevant information I may want to look back on a year from now. I even color code each lift green, yellow, or red. Green means the block went fantastic for that lift, yellow is that it was average, and red I assume you can guess is that it didn’t go so hot. This allows me to easily look back and find the info I am seeking.

3.) If you watch my YouTube channel, in many of my programming videos I discuss this, but I really try to limit myself to only changing a few variables at a time. I’m sure if you coach people, you can relate with the times where you just have a dozen ideas of what might work, but if you were to try all of them at once it would just be a mess. You might find something that works decently, but maybe you think there is greener grass out there. That is when you need to be careful how much you adjust. The more you adjust, the less you can pinpoint what variable actually was the correlating factor to success. 1, maybe 2 adjustments per lift per block can really help to limit noise and know the why behind the successes or failures of a particular training setup. I could elaborate further here, but if this topic interests you more, my YouTube video “My 3 Biggest Coaching Questions Answered” really dives into this topic. I’ll provide a link in my bio.

4.) This one may sound silly, but I make a concerted effort to provide fun names for training blocks. First, because the athlete likes it and I try to make it personal for them. But second, because it’s much easier for me to recollect on block names such as “Dogs And Training Logs Block 2” or “Get Thick and Squat A Brick Block 4” than it is to remember “Block 23”. Usually block names are used during a specific training period into a meet, offseason, or in the typical programming structure of a mesocycle. It allows me to easily remember a certain meet prep or offseason, and find it quickly within a possible 50+ tabs for an athlete. I know during “Squat More Than Clayton Talks” Heather was in meet prep, and I can find those training blocks immediately for reference. Add that to the block notes I take, and I am able to sift through past data very efficiently to find trends and things that worked or didn’t work in past training.

Lifter Case Study: Payton

Lifter Case Study: Payton

Lifter Case Study: Lorenzo

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.

Lorenzo’s Post

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.

1. Consistency:
• 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

3. Nutrition/Hydration/Recovery:
• 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

Controlling The Rate Of Progression In Powerlifters

Controlling The Rate Of Progression In Powerlifters – CLICK HERE

Is it possible to progress too fast? In my opinion it is very possible, and at times a lifter may be best suited to control their rate of progression with the thought of long term strength progress in mind. In this scenario the first thing that comes to mind is a young lifter experiencing those “newbie” gains, but this concept is far reaching to other circumstances as well. So in my latest YouTube video, I give the full synopsis on my thoughts in regards to controlling the rate of progression in powerlifting. I look at the different circumstances and scenarios where it can be beneficial to control a lifter’s rate of progression. I give backing to the reasons of why controlling their progression can be beneficial, especially in the long term. I show the step by step process of how you can control progression through different applications of autoregulation and training max advancement. And then lastly I take a look at 3 case studies of my lifters. These include Alan, who is an incredibly strong teen lifter who saw exponential progress that ended up being halted by injury. Albert who needs controlled exposure/progression when reintroducing low bar squats with the squat bar. And Jimmy who was a brand new to powerlifting and added well over 200lbs to his total in the first year. If you are looking for a full guide on how to create sustainable progress for newer lifters, when introducing a new lift, or when moving up a weight class, this video is for you! Click the link above to view!

Programming Heavy Singles: The Complete Guide ft. Data Driven Strength

Programming Heavy Singles: The Complete Guide ft. Data Driven Strength – CLICK HERE

Is a 73 minute video necessarily needed to cover the topic of heavy singles? Maybe not, but per usual I want to give a full depth insight into every thought I have in regards to a programming topic. I wanted to cover this topic because I know myself and other coaches get asked frequently about the implementation of singles, in particular about doing them year round. Heavy singles can be broken down into a fairly easy concept, but at the same time there is a lot that goes into the decision making of the application and use for each individual lifter. In my latest YouTube video, I go into the pros and cons of heavy singles and why you should be or should not be using them at given times, with a little guest spot from @zac.datadrivenstrength. I break down the things I take into consideration for individual lifters on why or why not I would program them more or less frequently based on certain factors. I cover how this topic is very lift dependent, as the application for heavy singles is different in regards to the squat vs. bench vs. deadlift. And lastly per usual, I pull out the real world application and look at some programs where I implement these variables and show how I have done so. I will warn, if you are looking for a straight shot answer on if you should do singles year round or not, this video probably won’t give you that answer (hint: I do bias typically to not doing them year round). But what it will do is bring to light every variable you need to know in making that decision for yourself and/or for your athletes. Click the link above to view!