No Shortcuts

The more experience as both an athlete and a coach I get, the more I am realizing that there is no substitute for good old fashioned time with the bar. We can perhaps aid the process by providing meaningful cues, coaching tips, and technique analysis, but until you feel what the right squat position is for some threshold number of sets, you are simply along the same process of trial and error that the rest of us are on.

Any athlete that comes from a sport with refined motor patterning required will tell you that experience and meaningful practice are necessary and a good part of success, and the same is true of powerlifting, where even centimeters one way or another make the difference in the most optimal start position of the deadlift, or one's ability to stay with a tough bench press attempt.

Can we somehow make the required number of repetitions less to experience some threshold level of proficiency in moving the bar in the squat, bench, and deadlift? I'm sure we can. As mentioned above, things like good coaching cues, guidance, and video feedback do play a role in speeding up the process from randomly finding local maxima for a technique that allows you to perform reasonably well, to finding what is globally the best stance and execution of a certain lift. This is not to say that we can shortcut the process entirely, only turn the search from a random walk, into a guided walk.

Like walking, shooting a basketball, or anything else that requires executing an ordered series of movements, repetition is invaluable. We can sometimes forget to count among our reasons for progress that practice plays such a valuable role, and that we often attribute that success solely to a good lifting program, or increased muscle mass. It's more than that, and focused repetition plays a crucial role. To that effect, beside building strength, work capacity, or other valuable goals to the strength athlete, simple practice with a substantial (~80+%) weight ends up being very important. Let's not forget this as we keep the discussion alive about optimal ways to program, training methodologies, and what is truly in an athlete's best interests.1

Bryce LewisComment