Friday, April 13, 2012

Employing Russian Training Principles To Become a Lifting Cyborg, Part 3

By Andrew McGunagle

The Russian philosophy of physical training is astoundingly organized, systematic, and logical. I hope I have made that much clear in parts one and two of this series. In this third and final installment of the cyborg series, I will expand on the final four principles that make up their excellent athlete development system. Once again, keep in mind that the application of these principles is limited only by your imagination.
Imagination, imagin-aaaation!
5. The Principle of Visualization: Visualization can be so much more than simply picturing yourself successfully performing a lift. The Russians emphasize utilizing a variety of tools, such as films, slides, and diagrams, to ensure that every one of their athletes fully understands the movements they need to perform. In my opinion, one of the most useful tools in this regard is YouTube. Thousands of lifters upload videos of themselves lifting weights. While some of these videos are comical, others demonstrate outstanding strength and movement mastery.

This would fall under the "comical" category

I know that some lifters enjoy watching lifting videos before their sessions to pump themselves up. In contrast to this approach, I propose that lifters watch videos in order to better understand the movements that they are going to perform. Watching the set-up, the execution, and the poise that certain lifters demonstrate under outstanding loads can be very instructive. Search YouTube for videos of strong lifters who utilize the technical style that you would like to master. If you squat with a close stance, then videos of wide-stance squatters in double-ply suits will not do you much good. Bookmark the videos of lifters that you would like to emulate and then watch these short videos before your sessions. In the gym, work towards demonstrating the same level of mastery as your lifting idols. I guarantee that, using this method, you will quickly see improvements in your lifting execution. If not, blame Klokov (if you dare).    

6. The Principle of Specialization: When discussing specialization, the Russians are referring to having athletes specialize in a single sport once they reach a particular age. Though you may be past your sporting prime, specialization can still be an important principle to keep in mind for your lifting. You see, one of the problems that a lot of young lifters run into nowadays is information overload. There is so much strength and conditioning information available, and there are so many cool things to try. If you are a young guy and you are not training for anything in particular, then go ahead and try it all. The problem with this smorgasbord-style of training is that, eventually, it becomes difficult to excel. Newbies will include the Olympic lifts, the power lifts, intense conditioning circuits, yoga, track workouts, kettlebell moves, and a host of other things in one week of training. This is a fine plan if your goal is to be decent at everything, but it will likely be ineffective if you want to get really good at a few things in particular. At a certain point in your lifting career, you will have to trim your training sessions and focus on the things you really want to accomplish. If you want to get good at A, B, and C, then including D, E, F, G, H, I, and J in your program will hamper your progress. Sure, certain things can be added to aid you in reaching your specified goals. However, once you have clear cut training goals, make sure that the things you add have a purpose. If your goal is to deadlift 500 pounds, then why are you doing 400 meter sprints twice a week? You only have one ass, so pick a saddle and get to work.
This monkey gets the message.
7. The Principle of Individualization: Individualization seems to have become a buzz word in the field of strength and conditioning. I applaud the individuals that tout this principle, as I also believe it is vital to lifting and athletic success. However, I have noticed that a number of lifters who are aware of this principle do not seem to fully grasp its meaning. The common misconception about individualization is that it entails some sort of mystical genetic quality that determines what will work for a particular person. This idea, quite simply, is complete rubbish.

"I have to do three board presses, man. It's in my genez."
While genetics certainly play a role in both lifting and athletic success, they do not necessarily dictate the means and methods that you must use to be successful. For example, many lifters will swear by certain exercises and protocols as the eternal keys to their success. Guys will adamantly assert that they must always do close-grip three board presses to build their bench, and they will stick with this exercise for months, even years, on end. These lifters seem to believe that they were predestined to need to perform select exercises to get strong. This belief leads to inefficiency, as lifters will get locked in to doing a standard slew of exercises because they think they have found what they must do to improve. Individualization is not about finding the exercises or protocols that you were "born" to do, it is about identifying needs. What movements will you perform in your sport of choice? What are the physical requirements for success in your chosen sport? Do you need to build muscle? If so, where? Also, where are the low-force areas in the range of motion of the lifts you want to improve? Where are you at in your training cycle? Should you be focusing on morphological qualities or neurological qualities? You see, individualization starts with needs. Needs, in turn, are matched with objectives. Once you have your objectives, then choosing exercises and protocols becomes easy. It isn't about finding what works for you as much as it is about determining what you need to improve upon and then matching your needs with exercises and protocols that address them.            

8. The Principle of Structured Training: Structured training and the preceding principle, individualization, go hand in hand, as a lifter's needs largely determine how their training program should be designed. For example, take a powerlifter who needs to focus on morphological qualities (essentially, they need to build muscle). Looking at the research and at guys who have been successful building muscle (bodybuilders), we see that lower frequencies with higher volumes of work are ideal for addressing this issue. Therefore, the lifter would plan on performing the power lifts less frequently and would look to use moderate intensities and higher volumes in order to perform more mechanical work during each session. On the other hand, if a lifter wanted to peak for a meet and, therefore, needed to focus on neurological qualities, then their training would be structured much differently. The frequency at which they perform their main lifts would increase, and their intensity would be high while their volume would likely be kept in the low to moderate ranges. These examples are certainly simplified, but they highlight how training can be organized differently depending on an individual's needs.

"Hmmm, what are my needs?"
In the end, you can make planning your training as simple or as complex as you like. If you understand how to identify your needs and you know which exercises and protocols take care of those needs, then planning your training is easy. Being a student of your sport, as the Russians highlighted in their very first principle, is what makes this ease of planning feasible.

In conclusion...
This series was fun to write, and I hope you learned a thing or two along the way. If you haven't already, go back and read through parts one and two of the series. Also, help make the world a better place to lift by sharing this series with your lifting buddies. At the very least, show your friends a video of Klokov and tell them he preys on people who curl in the squat rack. Thanks for reading!
Bros beware.

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