We don't plan to fail, we program for success

Head’s Down, Bum’s Up; Feeling the Grind but I Keep Pushing Through

Shawcross, H
(Managing Director, Athletic Institute Wangara, Perth – WA)

Entry #2: 4 Weeks to Nationals
As I write this entry another two weeks of training have come to an end, edging me closer to Nationals and leaving me now only 4 weeks out! I guess some of you reading may be wondering how often do I train? How long do I train for each week? And what my training consists of?
My training schedule each week is as follows; Wednesday night, Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. It’s not the prettiest structured schedule, but due to my working commitments and development of my company (Athletic Institute) this shall suffice for the time being. My team mates all have different training schedules and programs, not one is ever completely the same. Training sessions can vary from 2 hours right up to 3 and a half hours some days! The long sessions usually will occur during a heavy loading week or an RM testing week. Last week it was one of those heavy weeks. Loads were sitting at 86% and by Sunday I was beaten. It had well and truly kicked my ass!

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Now I have been put through some fairly hard training sessions in the past when I was a figure competitor. One program that comes to mind was back in 2012 when I completed Ben Pakulski’s MI40 program. At the time, this was some of the most intense and painful kind of hypertrophy training I had done which utilised eccentric overload with manipulation of time under tension as well as overloading sets (I wouldn’t generally recommend this for any novice or professional athlete as there are many flaws within his methodological processing of developing such a program). Now when it comes to training for strength and power, it’s another ball game completely, and what I mean by that is it’s a completely different kind of “hard”. A different kind of “hurt” and a very different kind of intensity. Your muscles are never really overly sore; you don’t really get the same kind of DOMS you would get from accumulative hypertrophy training, but, following a heavy week of strength training you experience a hurt that goes right down into your bones and you walk out of the gym with an exhaustion completely unique which feels like a paralysing fatigue on the nervous system.

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If you have ever known a competitive lifter (weightlifting or powerlifting) at a high level you will notice we athletes spend a lot of time training, sleeping, eating, stretching, sleeping, eating, getting treatment (physio, chiro, sports massage) sleeping, eating, stretching, oh and did I mention more sleeping and eating? If you don’t look after yourself, especially with the intensity and stressors that this type of training evokes, you will either get hurt or burn yourself out. It is impracticable as an athlete to solely rely on the de-load week to prevent against over-training. Thus it is important you manage the physical stressors of training as well as life stressors and mental stressors alike.
There were some huge highlights for me during week 5’s training! Obviously despite the ass kicking and flogging I received from my training (its super important that you take the positives over the negatives during these hard weeks as it can become pretty easy to concentrate on everything you’re doing wrong, rather than the things you actually are doing right) my squats were FINALLY on the way back up with a good series of 5 x 3 at 90kgs on my back squats and 5 x 3 at 75kgs on my front squats (only a few weeks back this weight was my 5RM). Snatches were feeling, for the first time in a long time, really good. All I need to keep working on, persisting with and dedicated in improving, is cleaning up my jerk.

This current week has finally come to an end, and even though it has been a relatively good week it has only been good because my coach devised my slight de-load, reducing to around 77-80%, but none the less, a well-needed reduction in intensity. It felt so good to get through some consistent lifting on the Wednesday and Saturdays sessions, but Friday was a grind and boy did I feel slow! The end of the working week usually affects my training in some way or another, but as I have said previously, it’s never as bad as you think so you just have to push through, because after the session you can look back and know you accomplished it!

Sunday was my last training session for the week and it was the second training camp for the State Team held at the Origins Weightlifting Club which I was really excited to be involved with. The Origins Weightlifting Club is located in Midvale at the SpeedDome. A smaller club set up compared to the Grizzlys’, but none the less full of everything needed to get my session done and dusted (or should I say “done and chalked”). It was actually really cool to be lifting in a gym that was underneath the actual velodrome and hearing the sounds of the track bikes go over the top of us as we trained.

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It was such an awesome experience to train in a small space with 5 tightly positioned platforms in the first lifting room with athletes and coaches moving in and out of the room frequently. The above distractions were an awesome opportunity to practice our concentration skills as it required much more focal attention to the exercises being performed than that of what I am used to. The body felt relatively good during this session, apart from my elbows being a bit sore from the overloaded overhead movements that have been programmed into this cycle to emphasise and strengthen my overhead lock outs, jerks and so forth. I worked through 5 x 3’s on my snatches at 80%, 5 x 2+2 on my Clean & Jerks at 80% (these felt rough on the jerks but it was only due to fatigue), 5 x 3’s on back squats at 80kgs which felt like a breeze this week (all the heavier sessions are starting to pay off) and pulls for sets of 5 at 80%.

Following the end of our training session we had to divert back to our home ground training facility at ECU to finish off other parts of our program due to equipment availability.
For me this was an exercise known as ‘lock-outs’, this exercise is a tough but small movement that is purely designed to improve the ‘lock out’ movement in your jerk to avoid you pressing out the bar and being called for a ‘no lift’ (red lights).

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Once again it was really great to see all the state team lifters presenting top quality and good lifting as well as seeing my own team mates progressing well in their preparation towards Nationals. Sometimes in these competitive type sports it can become very easy to become distracted with what other people are doing and compare yourself against them. For many individuals during this preparation period it is all about learning to control what you can control, forgetting the not so great training sessions and remembering that poor performance on one session in the gym does not necessarily reflect your performance on competition day and, just because you have an off day doesn’t mean you are a failure. As are most weightlifters, I am hyper-critical. This comes both as a blessing and a curse, because sometimes you need to take your perfectionist hat off and just lift. Even if it doesn’t look the prettiest or feel the smoothest, if it will get you white lights in a meet, its good enough for the that day’s session!
So right now, for me and most lifters, its heads down, bums up and just push through the grind. With just a few more weeks of tough training before we taper into the competition, it’s about staying focused and attacking each rep with the same intention, aggression and technique as we have done all the way through this preparatory period. All the base strength work has been done, there is not much more strength we gain between now and the meet, so at this point in time we just perfect our technique. Really, from here your main focus is to make sure you don’t do anything stupid to prevent you from performing on the day of competition – this includes; managing your internal and external stressors, looking after your body physically and technically and of course regulating your nutrition appropriately, minimising alcohol, getting plenty of sleep and trying to get the most out of your training sessions.

What will the next two weeks hold for me? Stayed tuned to find out more in my next instalment.
For now, I leave you with my final words –

“if you believe in yourself it won’t matter what anyone else around you is doing”.

Until next time,
H. Shawcross

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