Recently we have been experimenting with more rest and more de-loading in the gym, with an athlete that I work with. As with many athletes, trying to convince someone that less is more can be pretty difficult especially with major trials or competition is coming up. But we have recently we made a few major changes to his training program with some pretty good results. Firstly, he was complaining of being pretty flat and really tired towards the end of his 4 week training block. This meant the third and fourth week of his training block were becoming less productive. Getting the program right is what I believe to be the most difficult part of programming and coaching. How to fit ll the elements of your training into your program. We never want to leave anything out just in case that is the secret ingredient. Heavy weights, speed, power, plyometrics, track speed, what volume, how many days, on what days do we do speed v power or heavy etc… This complexities go on and on. Don’t worry you are not only here. Im pretty sure that every coach around the world continuously questions themselves when it comes to getting the programming right.
In this case I took a gamble and cut back the weekly program by weight and volume to try and increase recovery. We hadn’t stagnated but the athlete was getting a little frustrated as progress had slowed and the signs were there that he was over training. After a few days of thinking and a little back and forth I convinced him to try something for a few weeks. The initial response was not so great and he was a little concerned that he was training enough. Its not so much as what exercises to do its when and why do them.
Anyway, we started to substantially reduce the program to around 85% of IRM and a lot less volume and exercises. The feedback after the first week was positive. He was feeling less tired however, he still wasn’t convinced that he was doing enough work as he was feeling to good. I had been working with this athlete long enough that he was prepared to trust my judgement and give it a chance. It was a big risk as he had major selection testing coming up so if we got it wrong it could mean I had ruined what had been a very good training year.
So after 4 weeks of less load, less volume and more rest we slowly increased the load again but this time with a lot less volume. Trying to avoid the neural fatigue that he had been experiencing in the past.
The results spoke for themselves. A new PB deadlift, squat and power clean. I can’t remember the exact numbers but the squat PR was 15% increase on his previous PB and the deadlift similar. The power clean PB was equivalent or slightly better than his previous best which he hadn’t hit for a long time.
This again proved to me how difficult it is to get programming right but more importantly when your athlete isn’t improving more rest is usually the best answer. Having a coach or a good sounding board to advise you when you are starting to struggle is so important. This athlete is predominantly self coached these days and only calls upon me for the occassionaly advice, like the above example. Like so many good athletes they always want to do more when doing less is often the better answer.