Having just talked about how enjoying yourself in training is so, so important, and how easy it is to get caught up in the details, I'll give you an example from my past, and go on to talk about taking advice from high-level athletes.
There was a period a few years ago where I felt untouchable in training. I was making gains in strength at a precipitous rate and not getting substantially heavier either. It seemed every few weeks I was jumping up 10lbs on the squat, bench, and deadlift. Not only that, but the movements just felt good. You know those days where you just feel "on" in the gym, how everything feels right? It was months of that. Needless to say, I've looked back on that period from time to time, and tried to figure out how to get back to whatever made that period so advantageous.
The amount of speculations one can make about why they are or aren't progressing is a very, very long list. Just to give an illustration, here are some thoughts I've had about this period and why I was progressing.
- I was simultaneously coaching and playing volleyball, and maybe something about the explosiveness and repetitive nature of jumping transferred into powerlifting
- Was it an assistance movement? Thoracic hyperextensions? Glute bridges? Banded speed work? Pullthroughs? Heavy leg presses?
- Could have been purely a product of being a young athlete, and taking advantage of higher natural testosterone levels.
- Was it a result of the previous training program (bouts of Sheiko), and accidentally peaking myself perfectly for a training phase?
- Was my technique in lifting different?
- Some supplement I took? Was my meal timing or food choices different? Warmup different?
- Using knee wraps differently?
- Effect of being able to train with one's father for motivation?
This list is very, very long. I bring it up mainly to point out that we may make gains and have no idea why we are making them. We may think we know (and we obviously behave as if we know, and for good reason. Just programming haphazardly is not really an option), but in reality there are far too many variables to be certain, unless we're participating in a controlled experiment. I'm wary of giving advice to athletes about any "secrets" to training, because I know that picking apart what actually worked for me is a very hard thing to do. I caution other athletes and coaches in doing the same. What I've settled on lately is "this has worked for me in the past, or at least I think it has."
Contrariwise, we may think we know why we aren't progressing as we want to. The picture is equally muddled. It could just be a collection of fatigue load build over the last few months, or sleep, or nutrition, or stress, or work, relationships, wrong training, wrong volume, wrong technique,...stop. What benefit is there to this, unless you focus on one thing to change, give things time, and stop worrying.
Successes and failures in training and competition are clouded in history and the ever-changing picture of who we are and what we do day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month. Take suggestions from high-level athletes with a grain of salt. They, too, are products of a varied past with equally many variables.