Written by Gage Reid of Nova Strenght Training Systems
I’ve worked with countless athletes, coaches, as well as various other members of the strength community and one of the most common misconceptions is that when an athlete has poor technique or movement patterns, you must ALWAYS “Deload to 135 and work back up”. Although this may be the case in the most extreme of circumstances (a long-term injury that prevents an athlete from training for an extended period of time, for example), the more appropriate response to this would be smart programming with a close adherence to technical proficiency by both the coach and athlete.
“The 10% Rule”
Simply put, “the 10% rule” is when you take an athlete's 1-Rep-Max (1RM) and reduce it by 10% to allow the athlete more leeway with percentages, top sets and general working sets. This method is often utilized with athletes who have extreme dysfunctions with their technique. Although this may hit the ego hard for some people, it can be a huge advantage in the long term and will prove to set the athlete up for big PRs down the road, while executing them with a higher degree of technical proficiency- which means a safer, stronger, healthier lifter over time.
For example: If a lifter has a Squat 1RM of 250 pounds, but they quarter/half squat, have extreme valgus collapse and/or have a variety of other dysfunctions, you will reduce their Training 1RM to 225 and base all percentages, working sets, and top sets off of that number, as opposed to 250. It’s simple, yet effective in the most extreme of circumstances.
Weekly Undulation Strategies
This is a concept that I first heard from Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems a few years back and I’ve since incorporated a similar version of Weekly Undulation into my own athletes' programming. By varying the intensities weekly, but continually driving the total volume an athlete performs throughout the course of a training block you are able to potentiate when to hit rep PRs, as well as when to back off the intensity to allow for a slight recovery, adaptation effect and focus on improving technical proficiency with moderate loads. A few of my athletes, in particular, have responded extremely well to this style of training, but all have seen consistent results.
An example of Weekly Undulation during a Hypertrophy Block would be as follows:
Week 1: 4x8
Week 2: 1x8 @ RPE 7-8, followed by a -10% reduction in intensity for 4x8 back down sets.
Week 3: 5x8
Week 4 (Planned Functional Overreaching Week): 1x8 @ RPE 8-9, followed by a -10% or -15% reduction in intensity for 5-6x8 back down sets.
Week 5 (Deload Week): 4x6-8
As you can see the program calls for top sets ranging from RPE 7-8 and 8-9 every other week, this is typically when rep PRs are performed or matched. This allows the athlete to set goals, but also to continually drive training volume over the course of the training block, eventually accumulating enough training stress and fatigue to warrant a Deload Week.
I’ve talked about this in detail before, both in previous articles as well as on Facebook and Instagram. The idea of using specific variations, such as the High Bar Squat or Pause Deadlift, to improve technique has been utilized countless times by Team Nova Strength Athletes. The High Bar Squat, in particular, has proven to be an excellent training tool to improve bar path, knee position and overall technical proficiency due to the very nature of the movement. Often times I have an athlete perform High Bar Squats 2-3 times per week, with varying intensities and/or variations (such as 3-1-0 Tempo or 2-Count Pauses at the bottom) to improve Squat mechanics. Since the HBS is a highly sports-specific movement (it closely mimics the Competition Low Bar Squat) you will have a solid carry over once you transition back to the Low Bar Squat.
Feedback and Communication
As a coach, it is your responsibility to provide your athletes with consistent, detailed and appropriate feedback. Technical analysis is a huge aspect of coaching that is often overlooked in the online coaching community. Personally, I require my athletes to send multiple videos of each training session so that I’m able to monitor performance during the workout, find technical flaws and give accurate feedback. Seeing one video per workout of a top set will not be sufficient enough information to provide your athlete with the feedback required to make adjustments. I tell my athletes to send me videos of their top sets or main working sets, as well as videos of their last set. This will allow me to see the technical breakdown during the first set, versus the last set- because fatigue accumulated during a workout will impact how Set 1 looks vs. Set 5. It’s vital that you give your athletes the attention to detail that they require, especially if they are in the beginner or early intermediate stages of their lifting career where they need more feedback, technical adjustments, and reinforcement.
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